- Directed by
- Nicholas Hytner
There is, thankfully, no way to actually convey the evocative medley of sherbet lemons, latrine and Yardley's lavender talc that Alan Bennett (played by Alex Jennings) describes as emanating from "the lady in the van" – the difficult and mysterious Miss Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith, in her erstwhile stage role.
The reunion of writer, director and star is perhaps why there's an elegiac, sentimental quality to this film adaptation, from the manipulative meet-cute of Alan and Miss Shepherd through their disputations.
"One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation" is how Alan describes the interloper with the ducklike walk in his driveway.
Yet as unpleasant and haughty as she is, their unlikely relationship is heartwarming.
The original play's sharp edges are smoothed away by familiarity with the story, and possibly by the audience affection's for Smith, who has made a career of playing clucking chaperones, imperious crones and dowager countesses.
Smith is never more beloved than when she plays just this sort of curmudgeon.
Happily for the movie, Bennett's Lady is the cantankerous one the performer was most born to play.