Film Review by Jon E Clist
A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her car that's parked in his driveway.
Maggie Smith is such an amazing actress to watch. You can’t help but notice just how clever she is at creating interesting characters that draw strong emotional responses from the audience. Often the emotions are that of either disgust or frustration, and yet underneath those feelings is an undeniable desire to see more of these characters and what will become of them. Here we have the epitome of this with a character so warped and pained that you can’t help but float between annoyance and empathy throughout the film.
This film was adapted by Alan Bennett from his own 1999 stage play and 2009 BBC Radio 4 drama both of the same name. As mentioned within the film Bennett proves that as a writer, it is important that you write what you know. For the most part this is a film that is based on Bennett’s own experience and hence it has a very believable feel to it. There is a rather unique storytelling device utilised here with Bennett talking to himself in a very physically manifested manner. He splits himself off as the normal man and the writer. The normal man handles everything day to day while the writer version just stays in the front room writing everything down. At various stages of the story this becomes rather enthralling as he argues with himself and even corrects himself as to what actually happened and what may have been made up.
Great performances make this a must see film that is rather endearing and even though the thought of an obnoxious old woman who doesn’t bathe and lives in a van may turn the stomach a little, this film will not.
Magic story of a strange woman haunted by her perception of the past, while creating a strange legacy for herself in the process.
Releases: 25th February 2016
Duration: 104 minutes
Duration: 104 minutes
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Frances de la Tour
Director: Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys)
The entire principal cast of Alan Bennett's play The History Boys (which was subsequently made into a film with the same actors) appear in the film. Frances de la Tour plays Ursula Vaughan Williams, Bennett's neighbour, while Samuel Anderson, Samuel Barnett, Stephen Campbell Moore, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Sacha Dhawan, Andrew Knott, Clive Merrison, Jamie Parker and Russell Tovey all appear in minor roles. The two films have a total of 20 cast and crew members in common, with the exception of Richard Griffiths, who died in 2013. By coincidence, however, a young actor cast as one of the neighbours' children is also called Richard Griffiths. Director Nicholas Hytner said, " I emailed Richard's wife and she was convinced it was some kind of message."
Nicholas Hytner told The Guardian that, while filming in Camden Town, the crew arrived on set one morning 'to find the van had been broken into, and that two people had spent the weekend inside it "having a good time with each other". This necessitated the removal of all the van's contents - which had been dirtied up for artistic reasons - to be "deep-cleaned, and then made filthy again".'
At the Hay Festival on 27 May 2015, screenwriter Alan Bennett said "The story told by this film took place 40 and more years ago and Miss Shepherd is long since dead. She was difficult and eccentric but above all she was poor. And these days particularly the poor don't get much of a look in. Poverty is a moral failing today as it was under the Tudors. If the film has a point, it's about fairness and tolerance and however grudgingly helping the less fortunate, who are not well thought of these days. And now likely to be even less so."
The film was shot in the actual house on the actual street where the events took place, Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town. Some of the same people still lived there when the star prop arrived, decades later.
Three of the actors in this movie have starred in the Harry Potter film series: Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent and Frances de la Tour. However, this is the first time all three actors share the screen outside the franchise.
During one montage showing the passage of several years, Miss Shepherd decorates her van with Union Jacks and pictures of Queen Elizabeth II. This means it is 1977 (the year of the Queen's silver jubilee).