The true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.
ActorsStarring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Frances de la Tour, Gwen Taylor, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Roger Allam, Samuel Anderson, Dermot Crowley, Jim Broadbent, Russell Tovey, Stephen Campbell Moore, Eleanor Matsuura, Sacha Dhawan, Samuel Barnett, Marion Bailey, Deborah Findlay, David Calder, Elliot Levey, Jamie Parker, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Harriet Thorpe, Rosalind Knight, June Watson, Pandora Colin, George Taylor, Richard Banks, Tom Coulston, Aaron Neil, Jessica Bastick-Vines, Cecilia Noble, Clare Hammond, Sam McArdle, Giles Cooper
I had high expectations for this film and I wasn’t disappointed. Maggie Smith was faultless in her role as the ‘noble vagabond’ Miss Shepherd who lived the last 15 years of her life in a van on writer, Alan Bennett’s London driveway. Alex Jennings was superb as Alan Bennett to such an extent that when the real Bennett made a brief cameo at the end I wondered, for a split second, who was this imposter?
Played mostly for comedy there is an underlying pathos in the exploration of Bennett’s relationship with his mother and his own self deprecation. “You wouldn’t see Harold Pinter pushing vans down the street!” he mutters after being bullied into push starting Shepherd’s van.
The story itself (mostly true) is a little on the thin side and rather than a monologue we are given two Bennetts, the writer and the one who lived the ‘real life’. This technique allowed us to see Bennett talking to himself about Shepherd as he coped with her less than fragrant presence on his driveway.
Special mention for the fabulous Frances De La Tour as Ursula Vaughan Williams. I was surprised that James Corden ranked so high on the billing, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen his complete role in the film. One scene.
A sweet, unchallenging and heart-warming film. Recommended.