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.