Maggie Smith, one of the best known actors in the British TV series, DOWNTON ABBEY, is now starring in a feature film called THE LADY IN THE VAN, a moderately entertaining comedy-drama starring Maggie Smith as a homeless lady who lives in an old van.
The script is based on the real life experience of a London playwright who allowed an eccentric poverty stricken old woman to park in his driveway where she stayed for 15 years.
Miss Shepherd: You’re not St. John, are you?
Alex Bennett: St. John who?
Miss Shepherd: The Disciple of Jesus.
Bennett: No, the names Bennett.
Miss Shepherd: Well, if you’re not St. John, I need a push for the van.
Maggie Smith is thoroughly convincing as a mentally disturbed woman who somehow manages to be arrogant and self-centered even in her pathetically reduced circumstances.
For some reason, the playwright offers to let her park in his driveway.
Miss Shepherd: I don’t know; it might not be convenient.
Alex: No, I’ve thought it over. Believe me, Miss Shepherd, it’s all right, just till you sort yourself out.
Miss Shepherd: Not convenient for you, convenient for me. You’re not doing me a favor you know. I’ve got other fish to fry.
We learn over the course of the film that the obnoxious Miss Shepherd is educated, was once a nun, and can play the piano.
But we never really learn what got her to this low state.
Man in outdoor market: You look especially lovely today, sweetheart.
Miss Shepherd: Don’t “sweetheart me.” I’m a sick woman, dying possibly.
Man: Cheer up love; we all have to go sometime. It smells like you already have.
Even though Miss Sheperd is in his driveway, Alex does tries to keep his distance from her.
Alex: I’m not the carer. I am here; she is there. There is no caring.
The story takes on an extra dimension when it becomes clear that Alex intends to to write a play about her.
Miss Shepherd: Will you write about me?
Alex: I don’t know.
Alex (talking to himself): She never said this.
Alex’s self: So…
It’s a peculiar situation that awkwardly switches back and forth between drama and comedy.
Miss Sheperd: What are you doing? Looking at my things?
Alex: I thought you might be ill or dead.
Miss Sheperd: Dead, me?
Alex: I was concerned.
Miss Sheperd: You were nosy.
I enjoyed watching THE LADY IN THE VAN, but it’s the sort of satisfaction you get from a pretty good TV show.
Terry Hunter, Hawaii News Now.