The Lady in the Van


Academy Award winner, Dame Maggie Smith steals your hearts and steals the show as with her humor and pathos as the cranky old lady who lives in a van, Miss Shepherd. Maggie Smith ‘s character is very reminiscent of Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham only the Countess is much better dressed and is much cleaner than Miss Shepherd. Her home in the van reminded me of a rat’s nest.

Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett provides the perfect straight man to Miss Shepherd’s shenanigans. Jim Broadbent is Underwood.

“The Lady in the Van” was written by Alan Bennett based on his 1999 play of the same name that is the true story of Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who “temporarily” parked her hand painted bright yellow van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years. What begins as a begrudged favor becomes a relationship that will change both their lives.

“The Lady in the Van” is a British drama and I had trouble at first adapting my ears to the British accent but very shortly I understood everything. I loved the fact that Miss Shepherd hand painted her van. Her painting skills left much to be desired.

I loved the music in “The Lady in the Van” and the location. Filmed on the actual street and in the house in London, England where Bennett and Miss Shepherd lived all those years, director Nicholas Hytner reunites with writer Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George, The History Boys) to present an excellent, heart-warming two hours of cinema.

I am very disappointed that Maggie Smith wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress because this performance warrants a nomination but 2015 was the year of the woman in cinema and there are so many wonderful women’s performances that should have received nominations that didn’t.

“The Lady in the Van” is now showing at Plaza Frontenac, The Hi-Pointe, and The Chase Park Plaza. It is worth the drive to St. Louis to see this delightful film.

The Telegraph’s contributing movie critic Mary Cox lives in Wood River and is a member of the St. Louis Film Critics Association, who also occasionally writes about film-related topics, studied film at the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked in L.A. with various directors and industry professionals. She can be reached at Visit Mary’s website at