THE LADY IN THE VAN
With Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, 2015104 min
Discussant: Tom Pedulla
Once successful playwright and actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into a trendy London neighborhood in the 1970s, it won’t be long before he encounters Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith), a malodorous and irascible homeless woman with a fascinating backstory. Mary has managed to survive in the tony neighborhood, moving her van from curb to curb, by exploiting the residents’ guilt as well as their generosity—but only up to a point. Before long, Mary parks in Bennett’s driveway for a supposedly short stint that stretches to 15 years. During his eccentric tenant’s stay, Bennett (and we as observers) have ample chance to reflect on friendship and mortality as both Shepherd and the author’s widowed mother confront illness, aging, and death. Mary’s extended tenure will also provide the real-life Bennett with almost daily lessons in compassion and become the grist for two plays, a book, and this terrifically engaging film.
About the Film Series:
Each evening, a film addressing key elements of Buddhist psychology will be shown, followed by a presentation and a discussion moderated by a faculty member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy and Chip Hartranft, Director of the Arlington Center. Read more here: http://meditationandpsychotherapy.org/film-series