THE LADY IN THE VAN is the story of a homeless woman who lives in a van parked in real-life playwright Alan Bennett’s car park. It is the true story of the 15 year relationship between Bennett and Miss Shepherd. As the relationship develops, viewers learn about them and their two different pasts. Mary Shepherd used to be a nun and pianist. Bennett is dealing with his mother’s failing health. However, neither person cares for the other. They barely tolerate each other through out the majority of the movie.
THE LADY IN THE VAN lacks empathy and contains a significant amount of foul language, including one “f” word. The movie’s dominant worldview is pagan and sometimes depressing. The only redeeming elements is the Christian faith of Miss Shepherd, who frequently prays throughout the movie, talks of trusting God and attends confession. This small beam of light, however, is overshadowed by the characters’ lack of empathy, Alan Bennet’s homosexuality, and a moderate amount of foul language. The humor in THE LADY IN THE VAN is enjoyable and well written, but extreme caution is suggested.
(PaPa, CC, B, HoHo, LL, V, S, MM) Dominant pagan worldview where main characters only do nice things in order to serve themselves, with some underlying Christian elements that include one Catholic character used to be a nun, regularly prays and relies on God, mitigated by a major character who’s implicitly homosexual; 13 or 14 obscenities and profanities (including one “f” word), plus man cleans up homeless woman’s feces in his driveway; light violence includes man hit by car, and teenager harasses homeless woman in van; mild sexual content includes implied homosexuality; no nudity; no alcohol use; no smoking or drug use; and, moderate miscellaneous immorality includes woman is running from the law, blackmail by a police officer, and gossip.
THE LADY IN THE VAN is adapted from the play by Alan Bennett. Playfully describing itself as a “mostly true story,” the movie is about a former nun who became homeless and lives out of her van.
Miss Shepherd is a homeless ex-nun who wants to stay in her hometown. So, she gradually moves her van around a residential street in Camden Town. When Alan Bennett moves into an empty house on the street, he encounters Mary Shepherd. The families seem to humor Miss Shepherd in order to make themselves feel like charitable people.
After months of watching her move her beat-up old van around his street, Alan feels bad and allows her to park in his empty car park. Alan Bennett feels quite good about himself for his act of charity, but he’s constantly annoyed by the woman parked in his driveway. As a writer, Alan Bennett tries to refuse the urge to write about this woman and focus on other inspirations in his life. His largest inspiration is his mother, whose health is slowly failing.
During the movie, viewers learn more about Mary Shepherd and why she’s living out of a van. Her history as a nun and her talent as a pianist are revealed. The movie spans 15 years of Alan Bennett and Mary Shepherd’s lives. Throughout the 15 years, Miss Shepherd gets a new van, a new car and some very vibrant clothes. All the time Alan Bennett just tolerates her in his car park, never asking her to leave, but never asking to help her anymore.
Although the neighbors are occasionally kind to the old lady living out of her van, they always do it for selfish reasons or to make themselves feel like good people. Along with the lack of empathy for others, the underlying theme of the movie is basically non-existent. A woman lives out of her van in the car park, never significantly helped by anyone until the end of her life. Towards the end of the movie Alan finally opens up slightly and learns more about Mary Shepherd’s hard life.
The movie’s dominant worldview is pagan and sometimes depressing. The only redeeming elements are the Christian faith of Miss Shepherd, who’s still a very avid Catholic. She frequently prays throughout the movie, talks of trusting God and attends confession. This small beam of light, however, is overshadowed by the characters’ lack of empathy, Alan Bennet’s homosexuality, and a moderate amount of foul language. The humor in THE LADY IN THE VAN is enjoyable and well written, but extreme caution is suggested.
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