Usually I go to the cinema on Thursday’s, but this week I wasn’t able to go. So this week’s ‘Friday Film Chat’ will be about a film I saw, about a week ago.
Actually, it was the second time I had seen this film. I originally watched this film when it came out in the cinema in 2015. I enjoyed it then, but was intrigued to see if I would enjoy this more on another viewing.
The plot tells the true story of a woman named Miss Shepard, who parks her van outside of the playwright Alan Bennett’s and stays there for 15 years. Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? I can assure you, that this film is wonderfully quirky.
As time goes on, Alan discovers more about Miss Shepard despite his attempts to rid her from his driveway. He finds out that she had once played piano in a promenade concert, had tried to train as a nun but was kicked out for playing music in the convent and also, despite appearances, that she is learned woman.
What he doesn’t know, is the real reason she lives in the van in first place. She on the run from the law.
I love the gentle humour in this film. I think Maggie Smith does a wonderful job at making this unlikeable character well, likeable and Alex Jennings is uncanny as Alan Bennett. In fact during the end credits, the real Alan Bennett makes an appearance and the likeness is quite spooky.
As a writer myself, I could totally identify the two Alans featured in this film. A writer’s mind is often divided into two, so the film had one Alan who carried out the duties of real life, whilst the other Alan spent the day writing. I loved the interactions between the two and it gave a great insight, on how a writer’s mind works.
The neighbours added a great deal to the story. The neighbourhood in which Alan lives in is quite affluent, so the different reactions to Miss Shepard parking her van in the street were quite amusing. This film makes an interesting comment on the British class system, because some of the neighbours see Miss Shepard as an insect that needs to be squashed quickly, in order to to protect the neighbourhood’s reputation, others see her as way to prove themselves as ‘Good Samaritans’, despite Miss Shepard’s protests against their home cooked meals and their children’s recorder recitals outside of her van. Only Alan and another neighbour, Ursula, really treat her as a human being.
It’s a bit of a geeky fact, but whilst watching this film I was delighted to see that the principal cast of ‘The History Boys’ (minus Richard Griffiths), made a cameo during this film. It was a nice nod to one of Bennett’s most popular works.
You don’t have to be familiar with Alan Bennett in order to enjoy this film, though. I think it’s lack of shiny special effects and wealth of brilliant characters make this film a gem to watch. I highly recommend it.
My Rating *****
Have you watched this film? What did you think of it?