The Lady in the Van (Blu-ray) – Movie Review
Follow Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Duration: 104 minutes

The Lady in the Van (Blu-ray) – Movie Review

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Good: Humor, Acting performances
Bad: Not for everyone
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(3 votes)
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Rating: 6.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Except for Downtown Abbey, it’s been a while since Maggie Smith has done some acting work, in more famous titles. While most will not know that much about her early acting performances, she is well known for her titular roles in Harry Potter and even Sister Act. Of course, the lovely lady is slowly reaching the blessed age of 82, thus it’s only natural that she would slowly lean back and enjoy things outside of the movie industry. Nonetheless, it seems she steals a leading role once more, based on a true story through the eyes of Alan Bennett, a writer. It must have been faith that these two souls found each other, as thanks to Bennett her peculiar story lives on.

Lady in the Van

London, Camden Town in the seventies, the place where Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) decides to settle is a rather vibrant place, where upstanding citizens live, but are a tight community nonetheless. With his play currently being performed in the West End, it seems he is slowly but steadily making a name for himself as a professional writer. On his way to his new home, he comes across an old lady, supposedly named Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), who asks him to push her van across the street, because she can’t get it running. Reluctant at first, Alan decides to help, also mainly because of her rant about her being sick, ‘possibly dying’ and she’s simply looking for a final resting spot. After trying to forget the encounter, the weird lady winds up in his street, and it seems she’s a regular visitor according to Alan’s neighbors. She tends to park in front of different houses for fixed periods of time, regularly bothering the occupants of the house she’s parked in front with small but tedious requests. When she decides to park in front of Alan’s house, he doesn’t bother that much, but he isn’t looking forward to having her around that long, at least at first.

After a while, and many encounters with Miss Shepherd later, the street becomes a no parking zone and Alan offers her to stay on his driveway, until she gets her things in order. This is actually the beginning of a long peculiar relation, that lasted for nearly fifteen years. All while the passing years are filled with tall tales, requests, odd facts and slowly but surely a bit of who Shepherd truly is, as it’s clear she’s not telling the entire truth to Bennett.


Overall the flow of the movie is rather slow, but there’s never a dull moment to be seen. Not only is the story touching, it’s also quite funny, even though the things Shepherd says are meant to be serious. Another amusing technique used to spice things up is that Alan portrays himself as having two personalities, namely Alan Bennett, the person who lives out his life and encounters people on a daily basis, and AB, the writer, who uses everything that he comes across for his plays and literature, with his mother often being a great influence. That being said, it seems that the ‘lady in the van’ is also a new source of inspiration.

As the movie almost entirely revolves around the acting performances of Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings, it’s tricky to keep things interesting until the credits start rolling. Nonetheless, both stars present you with a stellar performance, albeit sometimes so simple and subtle that it truly feels like it’s just a scene from everyday life, even though most things in this flick are rather peculiar. The supporting cast also feels rather realistic and support the atmosphere that has been set by the leading roles.


The extra features that come with this Blu-ray release are rather typical ones, revolving around Maggie Smith, the making of, deleted scenes and commentaries. Nonetheless, we were surprised to see a small piece about the visual effects used in the movie, which is actually a fun special feature. As mentioned earlier Bennett has an alter ego, namely his ‘writing’ persona, and thus more than often you’ll see his two versions acting on screen at the same time. To do this, and give it a realistic looking appearance, everything was done in two separate takes, with an extra actor, who would switch places. Certainly a fun addition to regular making of featurettes commonly found on home releases.


The Lady in the Van is an entertaining duet between Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings that is both amusing and witty, while striking a sensitive note from time to time, to make the entire experience hit that much closer to home. While movies such as these are not always for everyone, this one brings forth an interesting story of how one’s life can drastically change by how people judge and act against one another. Laugh or cry, both are allowed when watching this movie.

All pictures © 2015 Van Productions Limited and British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

All pictures © 2015 Van Productions Limited and British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Rating: 6.3/10 (3 votes cast)
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The Lady in the Van (Blu-ray) - Movie Review, 6.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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