THE LADY IN THE VAN is in my humble opinion  a wonderful British film that made its debut in 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The story takes place in the 1970’s and 1980’s in  London in a tree lined middle upperclass neighbourhood. This pretty and close knit community attracted many individuals employed or interested in the arts.

This is where Alan Bennett, renowned and famous playwright resided. This story is his story, based on his memoirs. He is a mild-mannered insecure person and considered to be eccentric and introverted. His role was adeptly performed by Alex Jennings .Actually Jennings had the task of playing two roles–The role of Bennett and the role of Bennett. Alan Bennetts two egos are constantly arguing and dithering back and forth. Jennings very good performance was overshadowed by Maggie Smith, portraying Mary Sheppard- the lady in the van.

This is Mary’s story also. In the movie, like the playwright she  is also is shown to be eccentric, but her personality was the antithesis of Bennett’s. She was gutsy, cantankerous , strong willed, loud, pushy  and a pain in the butt. This elderly lady lived and traveled about in her van When she was tired she’d  park on various streets until forced to move. She was parked outside Alan’s residence when law enforcement made her vacate. She begged the playwright to let her use his washroom facilities. He reluctantly agreed to this -but only once.

Before he knew it Mary convinced him to temporarily let her park in his driveway for a very short time. This short time lasted for fifteen years. There were a succession of vans, each one painted a bright yellow.At first the neighbours ignored her and were sceptical of her and Alan. Then both were tolerated Eventually they  begrudgingly accepted the presence of Sheppard’s  van in the driveway and Bennett’s disaster of a driveway,  thanks to his guest. Anything the lady in the van didn’t want, she threw on to the  driveway–papers, garbage- including her own waste in plastic bags that frequently broke. Alan was constantly cleaning up after her. Eventually the neighbours became  protective of their feisty vagrant.

The film unravels the mystery of Mary’s eccentric ways,  her aversion to music and her odd religious rituals. We are introduced to some of the people who played a role in her life.

I recently befriended a homeless person. {See my previous post-A LADY WITHOUT A HOME} My lady without a home doesn’t sleep in a van. I don’t know where she sleeps. During the day she sits on a bench outside a mall, with her belongings arranged neatly beside her. She is elderly like Mary Sheppard but that is where the similarity ends. She appears to be well groomed ,courteous and grateful for any hand outs. She has a beautiful smile.

The last few times I was at the mall, my lady wasn’t there. but a couple of times her belongings were. I don’t know where she goes ,but nobody has tampered with her possessions. Everybody has a story and I would like to learn more of hers.





About epsnider

EP Snider’s dream came to fruition when she published a book at age 69. She continues to share her thoughts and stories with a humorous twist on Wordpress and Facebook.
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  1. cindyfazzi says:

    I’ve never heard of this film until now. I love Maggie Smith. Thanks for sharing your review!


    • epsnider says:

      Thank you for checking it out. It was a good movie .Mind you I love British movies and television programs. I especially Like the series Downton Abbey where Maggie Smith has a top role.


  2. mycatgrady says:

    Good snyopsis of the film Elaine and your ‘mall’ lady fits in so well, could she be cranky and feisty when the need be or even though she dresses well and is groomed..something has driven her to the ‘streets’ as well…who knows what that might have been. I always believe that anyone that we see who appears to be ‘homeless’ has suffered some trauma in their lifetime…sometimes there is a story that comes out but most often it’s left for those of us who care, to wonder about. Society for the most part does not seem to care, for me that is a huge problem…Have we as a group forgotten the saying “There but for the grace of God go I”…Makes me wonder….


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