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Maggie Smith reprises her stage and radio role as the cranky bag lady who parked her decrepit van in writer Alan Bennett’s Camden driveway in the mid-1970s and stayed until her death 15 years later.

Smith’s Miss Shepherd is a glorious comic creation, a pungent mix of dottiness and iron will. But there is pathos beneath the eccentricity, with glimpses of a turbulent past as concert pianist, wartime ambulance driver and nun, while Alex Jennings’ Bennett is a worthy foil for Smith.

Adapted by Bennett from his own play and shot by director Nicholas Hytner in the very house and street where the events took place, this hugely enjoyable film also boasts cameos from Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Russell Tovey and Samuel Barnett, who all appeared in Bennett and Hytner’s previous stage and screen collaboration, The History Boys.