BUFS Preview: The Lady in the Van

This week, BUFS is pleased to present The Lady in the Van directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent.

The Lady in the Van is an ingenious British comedy starring Maggie Smith as a glorified bag lady who lives in her van in a posh London borough. The film was adapted from Alan Bennets award nominated play and book by the same name. The Lady in the Van opens with a terrible car accident that shows a young woman fleeing from the scene in a van. This accident would result in distrust and denial for this woman in her later years as she retreated into self-punishment by becoming the homeless van wanderer.

The cinematic debut of The Lady in the Van stars the distinguished Maggie Smith as Ex Nun Miss Mary Shepherd, a remarkable woman who lives in her van parked in Camden, London. Mary is known for her irritability, unorthodox hygiene issues and her quirkiness. She is treated like a pesky problem that just won’t go away as she wanders from house to house parking her van. The neighbors treat her like their own charity case, each having her park in front of their home for a period of time and feeling relieved as she moves on. That is, until she meets Allan Bennets (Alex Jennings), the laudable and almost callous writer who at the same time proves to be a weak willed and kindhearted landlord with a soft spot for Mary. He allows her to park in his driveway for what is supposed to be a few months but ends up turning into 15 years.


When miss Shepherd passes away, the audience learns through Bennets that she was actually a gifted pianist known as Margaret Fairchild. The audience is left with a feeling of sorrow as they come to learn that her gift for music was denied through her guilt and haunting of something that wasn’t her fault.

Director, Nicolas Hynter, created a poignant film with a story that is undeniably touching and filled with clever wit. With outstanding performances by the cast and wonderfully crafted thematic elements, The Lady in the Van is an outstanding film to watch. It transitions from a comedy to something more extensive, by showing it’s audience that every person has a story to tell. Often society is keen to write people off if they appear to not fit within the norms. The Lady in the Van encourages its audience to refrain from averting their eyes, and instead invites them in to look at one exceptional lady’s story, showing there is substance to things often overlooked.

The Lady in the Van screens Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Landmark Theatres, Pen Centre. Visit brocku.ca/bufs for details.

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