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

E.P SNIDER is the pen name that I used to publish "WHY ME- a memoir". I used a pen name so as not to embarrass my spouse, my offspring, their offspring, my grand dogs and my friends. A dream came true when I had my first book published at the age of sixty-nine. "WHY ME? "is a collection of memoirs recounted from various stages of my life and the lives of those that I love or like at least some of the time. Most of the incidences are humorous-some are not. I am a senior but I feel more like a junior except for the aches and pains. When I look in the mirror I often see my mother or some other aging lady with wrinkles and sun spots. The amount and depth of wrinkling depends on which mirror I am looking into, the degree of lighting and how well my skin absorbed the moisturizing cream that day. Although I am mature in years, maturity is definitely not one of my virtues. If something strikes me as funny I get the giggles. Most of my family and many of our friends have a rather warped sense of humour-so I giggle a lot. Laughter plays an important role in our lives. My friends were a significant inspiration for me to begin my writing career. For the past number of years hubby and I have been spending part of the winter season in Florida to escape the sometimes bitter cold climate in Toronto Canada. Every year I send emails to those left behind. To my delight they find my emails to be hysterical and a cure for their winter doldrums. They compare my style of writing to that of the late Erma Bombeck. For those of you not familiar with the author-- she was a beloved American humorist in the 1970's and 1980's. I have loved literature and creative writing from an early age. I spent some of my growing up years in Alberta and won a prize for a best poem commemorating Alberta's bicentennial year. My grade seven teacher was a large and forceful woman, with white hair and course bristly white chin hairs to match. We were all intimidated by her and thus listened intently as she drilled us about parsing sentences and adverbs and adjectives. She provided me with a good basis of the English language. In addition to "Why Me" I have had a short essay published in a book of assorted memoirs by Canadian woman. I currently write for our Toronto Condominium newspaper. I hope to do more writing, although I am not sure if my family can cope with any more of my meltdowns when blocks of written material mysteriously disappear off of my computor. I admit I am computor and electronically challenged, but I will persevere. - - - - - - - - - - - Writing has been a passion of mine through out my life. Ever since I took a step forward and entered into the world of computers, a new world of opened up for me. I found myself engrossed in writing emails with lengthy updates about my life's recent highlights. To my delight, people found me...funny! I then offered to write for my condo newsletter, and I recently had a short memoir published. For the last several years I became glued to my computer, transferring my hand-written life adventure notes to an actual story of my life's defining moments. Finally, at the age of 69, I was done... I wrote a book! AND it's actually published. People are reading it. People are enjoying it. I am thrilled! Plus, it's one of the greatest gifts I could ever give my family. Talk about a dream come true. My advice to you: Think positive, keep your eye on the prize, and you too can enjoy as your dreams and desires come to fruition.
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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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