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|Originaltitel:||The Lady in the Van|
|Laufzeit:||Ca. 104 min.|
|FSK:||From 6 years|
When dramaturge Alan Bennet (Alex Jennings) moves into his new cottage in a quiet part of London, he has no idea what he will be facing very soon. The quirky Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), who lives in her run-down van and always settles with her mobile living room in front of one of the houses in the neighbourhood for several weeks - including the use of the house's own premises - also lives in his street. Soon it also hits Alan, who is admittedly not very enthusiastic about it. When the city bans parking on the street, Miss Shepherd should be moving on. But then Alan lets himself be broadly beaten to let them park in his driveway. And this is the beginning of an unusual and not always easy shared apartment that will last for 15 years…
"The Lady in the Van" is actually based on a true story that the well-known dramaturg Alan Bennet wrote down after the death of the real Mary Shepherd and later transformed into a play. In this Maggie Smith already shone on the stage of the Queen Theatre in London under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, who later filmed Bennet's successful play "History Boys" for the cinema. Now the team around Bennet, Hytner and Smith have joined forces again and brought their story back to life in the very places where Miss Sheperd's real van once stood. The result is a nice feel-good cinema with an outstanding Maggie Smith.
With a harmonious mixture of much dry humor and quiet drama the story shows how a strange person can become an important part of the lives of others almost unnoticed and that behind every fate there can be a very fascinating story. One is inclined to dismiss Miss Shepherd as a quirky old woman who, with her behaviour and stern smell, does not necessarily represent the kind of society one would like to be surrounded with. But as the old lady gradually reveals what has caused her to lose her grip in her life, you start to see Miss Shepherd with completely different eyes and to understand her sometimes very rough behaviour better.
The problem with the film is that it wants to cover a period of 15 years in just 100 minutes. While some scenes are staged almost too leisurely, other aspects of the story are ticked off in a hurry. In places, this results in a somewhat unbalanced narrative flow, which also weakens the emotional effect of the whole. But the very good acting of the actors and quite a few wonderful little moments comfort us over this deficiency to a large extent. "The Lady in the Van" is not a masterpiece, but the film offers nice entertainment for all lovers of British arthouse cinema. If you can't get enough of the wonderfully biting Maggie Smith, as we know and love her from "Downton Abbey", you shouldn't miss this charming work. Worth seeing
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