Film review: The Lady in the Van (9 out of 10)

Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van
Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van

After a lifetime of superb performances on film, TV and in the theatre, Dame Maggie Smith has notched up another phenomenal success.

The role in this gentle but thoughtful film has enabled her to show a range of emotions and reveal her comic touch; proving yet again that she is one of our greatest living actors.

The story is based on playwright Alan Bennett’s real-life encounter with a homeless, belligerent woman who ended up living in a van on his drive for 15 years.

Lady in the Van director Nicholas Hytner took charge of the 2006 movie based on another Bennett play, The History Boys.

And it seems virtually everyone from that film appears in some form in this latest Bennett adaptation.

That explains very quick cameo roles from the likes of Clive Merrison, Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey, Stephen Campbell Moore and James Corden, among many others.

Alex Jennings plays Bennett, with remarkable similarity to the man himself.

In fact it’s really a two-hander with other quality actors contributing in short bursts.

The interplay between Jennings and Smith is a delight to watch, with some superb humour but also touches of sadness as the two get to know each other over the years.

It’s a very British movie and, as such, may not travel well across the Pond, so Oscar may not come knocking.

However, this is a film that will do very nicely at the box office in the UK and will further enhance admiration for Dame Maggie.

Film details: The Lady in the Van (12A) 104mins

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Starring: Alex Jennings, Maggie Smith

Screening courtesy of Horsham Capitol

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage

2) Like our Facebook page

3) Follow us on Twitter

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

Always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.