Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - LIFESTYLE -

THERE are few things more de­light­ful than watch­ing Dame Mag­gie Smith on the big screen; the oc­to­ge­nar­ian is al­ways such a sweet, calm­ing pres­ence.

Just when you think she may be wind­ing down her ca­reer, she keeps pop­ping up in Down­ton Abbey and has ap­peared in at least one film per year for the last eight years.

The quan­tity of work she has ap­peared in ri­vals those of young worka­holics Jen­nifer Lawrence and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son.

Bring­ing a de­light­ful cheek­i­ness, she is the shin­ing light as the mys­te­ri­ous and trou­bled Miss Shep­herd in The Lady in the Van.

Af­ter pos­si­bly caus­ing the death of a cy­clist with her ve­hi­cle, Shep­herd flees the au­thor­i­ties and parks on the sub­ur­ban streets of Cam­den in the 1970s and takes up res­i­dence.

The neigh­bours’ re­ac­tions range from ac­cept­ing to fu­ri­ous, but it is cour­te­ous au­thor Alan Ben­nett (Alex Jen­nings), who de­spite his un­usual re­la­tion­ship with the prickly home­less woman, al­lows her to park in his drive­way, where she stays for 15 years.

The Lady in the Van re­volves around Smith.

The script is of­ten sharp and funny and the film it­self has a whim­si­cal tone with a dash of au­da­cious­ness, but it is Smith who holds your at­ten­tion.

One as­pect that does not quite come to­gether is Ben­nett’s dual per­son­al­ity; sev­eral scenes have him talk­ing to a ver­sion of him­self in a self­con­sciously quirky method of char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment.

This film is a di­gestible and en­joy­able crowd-pleaser.

Dame Mag­gie Smith is a de­light to watch in TheLady intheVan.

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