The Lady in the Van (2015)

[5.5]

Maggie Smith headlines this true story adapted from a stage play by Alan Bennett, about a homeless woman who parks her van in a single, gay man’s driveway and stays for fifteen years. Smith reliably carries the film, but The Lady in the Van misses a lot of opportunities to deepen its characters. A mystery is set up around Smith’s character, but instead of being revealed in dramatic layers, a harsh light is just suddenly thrown upon it near the end. Bennett’s character (played by Alex Jennings) could also be a more engaging protagonist — more humorous, more perplexed… more something, anyway. Jim Broadbent appears in a few scenes, but makes little impact. I wish the drama were mined to better effect and the comedy played up substantially more, but The Lady in the Van is still entertaining enough for fans of Dame Smith. Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Crucible, The Object of My Affection).

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