Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Lady in the Van (3 Stars)

"Lady in the Van" is a remarkable true story. In 1974 a homeless woman who slept in the back of her car asked a man in London if she could park on his driveway for a few months. She stayed for 15 years. By a stroke of luck that man was the English playwright Alan Bennet. In 1999 he wrote a play about his experiences with her, and the play has now been turned into a film.

The woman called herself Mary Shepherd, although Alan later found out this wasn't her real name. What began as an act of charity turned into a bizarre relationship between the two. It would be incorrect to say that the two became friends. Alan found her unpleasant due to her bad smell and her unsanitary habits. For instance, she used to shit in plastic bags and drop the bags outside the van for Alan to clean up. However, Alan became fascinated with the eccentric old lady when he began to piece together something of her history. She used to be a nun, she used to be a concert pianist, she used to be an ambulance driver. How did she end up in this pathetic state?

I found the film interesting, but I couldn't enjoy it. The trailer I saw made Mary Shepherd look like a cute little old women. In the film she seems nasty and bitter. Her bad temper outweighed any quaintness she might otherwise have had. I'm sure that this was intended as an accurate portrayal of the real life character. It's not a bad film, Maggie Smith's acting is superb, as always, but it's not a film I can relate to. I wouldn't have let her park her van in my driveway for a single day.

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