The Lady in the Van parents guide

The Lady in the Van Parent Guide

Audiences expecting a platitude of "warm fuzzies" will instead find more of an observation of human behavior as Smith delivers an award-worthy performance. Profanity the major content issue for teens.

Overall B

When a homeless woman (Maggie Smith) who lives in her van shows up in his neighborhood, Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) allows her to park her vehicle in his driveway. But what starts out as a temporary arrangement slowly turns into a years long relationship.

Release date January 15, 2016

Violence B
Sexual Content B
Profanity D
Substance Use B+

Why is The Lady in the Van rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Lady in the Van PG-13 for a brief unsettling image.

Run Time: 104 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

The opening title to Alan Bennett’s Lady In The Van reminds us the story is “for the most part true”. One could speculate what did and did not happen, but the core aspect of this plot is grounded in reality: Bennett did invite Miss Mary Shepherd to park her van on his London driveway for a short while. Sixteen years later, Shepherd passed away, still living in the Bedford van.

Alan Bennett (played by Alex Jennings) first took notice of Miss Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith) when she set up her home on wheels in front of another residence on his quiet street in Camden. Not surprisingly, none of his neighbors wanted her to stay. For instance, when one family discovered their child’s music lessons were driving Shepard crazy, they made sure their window was always open. Eventually the stray pulled her dilapidated vehicle in front of Bennett’s home. His overture to have her squat on his property wasn’t completely selfless: The playwright and actor realized if she’d park in the driveway he would see less of her ugly van. And so it began…

Years pass and the love-hate relationship between the two creatures of habit works as a foil to reveal the deepest fears and frustrations of each. Bennett constantly talks to himself as he wrestles with his need for compassion towards, versus irritation against, the vagabond. Meanwhile we discover the inciting incident in Miss Shepherd’s life that brought her to become an unwashed, “odoriferous concerto” of a lawn ornament.

Containing three sexual expletives, along with some other profanities, Lady In The Van holds few other major content barriers to teen viewing. Bennett, obviously gay, is visited by a variety of men (implied to be prostitutes), however no sexual activity or discussion is seen or heard. Violence is limited to verbal arguments and the brief depiction of a dead body.

Smith delivers an award-worthy performance in this production where it feels like the director gave her free reign to drive her character. One may also assume the cultural quirks of this film will play much better to those who will appreciate the subtleties of English culture—including the societal right to park a messy caravan surrounded by garbage (including fecal waste) on a residential street. “Not in my front yard,” will likely be the reaction of most North American viewers.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of this UK-made movie is its conclusion. Throughout, Bennett is always the reluctant provider and Shepard is a never grateful recipient. Audiences expecting a platitude of “warm fuzzies” will instead find more of an observation of human behaviour—both good and bad. If you come prepared for that, then Lady In The Van may be a film worth parking on your sofa to see.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Dominic Cooper, James Corden. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release January 15, 2016. Updated

The Lady in the Van
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Lady in the Van rated PG-13? The Lady in the Van is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for a brief unsettling image.

Violence: Characters are seen and heard arguing over various situations. A character, that is a former policeman, extorts money from an underprivileged character. A body is depicted shortly after death.

Sexual Content: A gay man is visited by other men (whom are assumed to be male prostitutes). Scatological matter is discussed and a character steps in fecal matter.

Profanity: Three sexual expletives are heard along with other infrequent scatological and religious expletives.

Drug/Alcohol Use: A secondary character is briefly seen smoking a cigarette.

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More parents' guide for The Lady in the Van after the break...

The Lady in the Van Parents' Guide

What was Alan Bennett’s attitude toward Miss Shepard? Have you ever been put in a position where you ended up giving more than you intended? Is giving out of duty (or, in Bennett’s case, out of a desire to have a nicer view) better or worse than not giving at all? What other choices did Bennett have?

What is Miss Shepard’s attitude toward receiving help? Why does she react the way she does? Might her life have been better had she been more gracious?

What role does pride play in the lives of both of these characters? How does pride affect our ability to improve ourselves?

Did you know that Mary Shepherd, the lady in the van, really did live in writer Alan Bennett’s driveway for 15 years? Here is the book he wrote about their relationship, which he later turned into a stage play.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Lady in the Van movie is April 19, 2016. Here are some details…

Home Video Notes:The Lady in the Van
Release Date: 19 April 2016
Lady in the Van releases to home video (Blu-ray & DVD) with the following special features:
- Playing The Lady: Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd
- Deleted Scenes
- The Making of The Lady in the Van
- The Visual Effects
- Commentary with Director Nicholas Hytner

Related home video titles:

Instead of just passing through, a traveler accidentally ends up a permanent resident at an airport in The Terminal. Maggie Smith can also be seen in the Harry Potter franchise.

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