This film tells 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. It is based on the memoir that Bennett wrote about the experience, based on his diary entries, which he adapted first for the theatre and then wrote the screenplay for this film. Nicholas Hytner directs, having also been the director of the play.
So this film is, quite simply, the ultimate, authorised version, filmed in the very street, in the very house, in the unchanged rooms where it all happened. Although Bennett doesn’t live at 23 Gloucester Crescent any more he still owned it when the film was shot, so what we see is no reconstruction but his very own decor.
Once more, Alex Jennings does his excellent, super-prissy impersonation of the younger Alan Bennett, twice over, as Alan the cold-hearted writer and Alan the protesting man with a life, of a kind, conversing sarcastically with one another in the same room. As a tribute to the years at the National Theatre, the likes of Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour and James Corden play useful cameo roles — Corden making a great Camden barrow boy — while Roger Allam is marvellous as a complacent neighbour who doesn’t really get Bennett, let alone his poo-flinging friend. The glory of the film remains Maggie Smith, who is hilarious. There’s nobody like her, so wonderfully grande dame in any degree of squalor.
Maggie Smith received nominations for Best Actress in the recent Golden Globe and BAFTA awards.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall