An actress with a six decade-long career, Maggie Smith still continues to delight in franchises such as Harry Potter and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, not to mention the hit series Downton Abbey. Her latest feature, The Lady in the Van, finds her taking the starring role, and ahead of a TIFF premiere the first trailer has landed.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Crucible, The Object of My Affection, and Center Stage) as adapted by the stage play Alan Bennett, the story follows Smith as an eccentric homeless woman and her relationships with those in her neighborhood. It certainly won’t get points for breaking new cinematic boundaries, but this first trailer sells a genial, feel-good time. Also starring Alex Jennings, Frances De La Tour, and Roger Allam, check out the trailer, description, and poster below.

Update: See the U.S. trailer below.

TIFF’s official description:

Based on Alan Bennett’s memoir and hit West End play, this brilliantly witty, “mostly true” story chronicles an unlikely friendship between a writer and the elderly eccentric who takes over his driveway.

All sorts of people wash up in Camden, the London borough where playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) buys himself a house just big enough for him and his roommate, Alan Bennett (also Alex Jennings). “The writer is double,” Bennett explains. “There is the self who does the writing and there is the self who does things.” This is a story about the one who, however reluctantly, does things — like allow Miss Mary Shepherd (the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith) to park in his driveway. Miss Shepherd is homeless. Ornery, impolite, and bullying, she claims to take advice from the Virgin Mary. And she smells bad. But Alan, despite his very private nature, takes pity on her and says she can stay there for three months.

Perhaps he’s also a little curious. Where did she find this van? Where did she learn French? And who is that strange man (Jim Broadbent) who keeps coming round in the middle of the night? Miss Shepherd seems to have led a life so much more interesting than Alan’s. Perhaps some of that interest will rub off on him. There will certainly be plenty of time for that to happen as she tests the limits of his hospitality, stretching the three months into fifteen years.

The Lady in the Van is playful, inventive, and relentlessly funny. Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys) with swift pacing and a seasoned sense of mischief, the film reminds us of the value of taking a chance on strangers — and of the long road that gradually turns strangers into friends.

the lady in the van poster

The Lady in the Van opens on December 11th in limited release.

No more articles