The Scoop – A film with a big heart but not without bite, The Lady in the Van is a funny and touching showcase for its leads.
In a Camden suburb, one person disrupts the comings and goings of the comfortable, middle-class residents. She is Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a chaotic force of nature whose personality is as overpowering as the smell inside the van where she lives. When playwright and actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into the neighbourhood, he makes the mistake of offering her a little sympathy – and so begins a peculiar relationship which will span the next fifteen years.
To the bewilderment of everyone around him, Alan allows Miss Shepherd to park her van on his driveway, becoming a permanent part of his life. Is this a cynical attempt at getting material for his writing, a symptom of his guilt around his relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), or a genuine act of kindness? Alan isn’t sure. And whatever the truth, Miss Shepherd isn’t going anywhere.
I was looking after myself, Miss Shepherd only incidentally; kindness didn’t really come into it. – Alan Bennett
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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. Cinderella is rated U – contains very mild scenes of emotional upset. The film is available on DVD.
Once upon a time there lived a happy couple who had a daughter named Ella (Lily James). They share a golden existence in their beautiful house until the tragic, premature death of Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell). Before she dies she asks her daughter to do two things: ‘have courage and be kind’. These, she promises, will help her overcome the trials life throws at her. Time passes and Ella’s beloved father (Ben Chaplin) eventually remarries, bringing his daughter a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), to keep her company whilst he is away on business trips. But tragedy soon strikes again and Ella’s father dies too.
It soon becomes apparent that Ella’s new family have no intention of welcoming her. Over time she becomes their servant, left to do all the cooking and cleaning. Some nights she cannot find the energy to climb to her draughty attic room and so sleeps by the dying embers of the kitchen fire; leaving her covered in cinders come morning, and earning her the nickname Cinderella. Life is tough, but through all Ella remembers her mother’s instruction to ‘have courage and be kind’. It is this spirit that captures the heart of Kit (Richard Madden), a ‘palace apprentice’ she meets by chance in the woods.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s young Prince is under pressure to choose a wife that will strengthen the country’s political footing. He is to make his decision at a lavish ball full of foreign princesses and, at the prince’s request, ordinary members of the public. Will Cinderella make it to the ball to meet Kit once again? Will they find out each other’s true identity? And will their families allow them their happily ever after?