The Lady in the Van is a “mostly true story” as mentioned at the beginning of the film. That’s because Alan Bennett had to put up with an old homeless woman for 15 years by allowing her to live in her van in his driveway. Maggie Smith plays Mary Shepherd, an old woman literally living out of her van. But after moving into his driveway, Bennett slowly learns that Mary is not the person he and everyone else think she is.
It’s a bit of a mystery for us too until we learn Mary’s background, her real name, and why she’s so bitter yet fragile at the same time. While all this plays out slowly, albeit with typical British humor, the film is only enjoyable because of Maggie Smith. Her shrill voice, her piercing eyes, frail one moment, then boisterous the next, Smith is simply exceptional.
The Lady in the Van is bound to please just about anyone. And like the titular character, it’s a film hard to love, but once you do, it’s equally hard to resist.