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The Lady in the Van

"Wonderfully funny, terribly touching and a vehicle for the boundless gifts of Maggie Smith." - Wall Street Journal

"It's 16 years since Maggie Smith last played cantankerous Mary Shepherd in Alan Bennett’s hit play about his real-life nuisance neighbour. Since then the veteran actress has carefully honed the art of the acidic one-liner in Downton Abbey and two 'Marigold Hotel' films. She’s such a delight in this funny and touching big-screen version she looks certain to be a permanent fixture at this winter’s awards.

"After she is moved on by the council, Bennett (an eerily good Alex Jennings) agrees to let Mary park her decrepit van on his drive for a couple of nights. And as the days turn into years, the playwright has plenty of time to mull over that moment of kindness.

"The film, shot at Bennett’s old north London home, plays out as a comedy, a touching drama and, as he investigates Mary’s past, an intriguing mystery. At first the writer is reluctant to get too close to the smelly stranger. Then in conversations with himself, he wonders whether he could use her as material for a play. 'That appears to be my niche – I’m stuck with old ladies,' he tells himself after stealing a line from his elderly mother.

"Thankfully, the writer wins out. This lovely little film is another justification for that blue historic plaque above Bennett’s old drive. A true British gem." - Daily Star

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