Genre : Comedy/Drama/Romance
Country : UK/USA
Patricia Clarkson : Wendy
Ben Kingsley : Darwan
Grace Gummer : Tasha
Director : Isabel Coixet
I never learned to cook because I thought my mother would always be there to cook for me.
And then there was half the world between us.
So I make my own food.
Your point ?
Driving lessons as a metaphor for life. An original way to highlight this. But just like the lessons in everyday life, this film is a bit slow and repetitive. Granted, you can actually compare this with life. In the beginning a lot goes wrong and you don’t really know how to start and comprehend it all. But with a lot of practice and experience, you can cope with it. And sometimes it can go terribly wrong with misery as a result. So with perseverance, following good advice given and not violating too many rules, you could succeed. And you can come up with more things connected to ordinary life. But as I said, it isn’t really exciting. Besides that, I also asked myself where the romance was in this movie. The fact that Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) is going through a divorce and Darwan (Ben Kingsley) is forced into a marriage with someone he doesn’t even know properly, is not exactly my idea of romance. And it wasn’t a real comedy either despite a few funny moments. I’d rather call it a tragic affair. And yet it was a movie I could watch effortlessly till the end. And that because of the sublime acting.
So in terms of content, it’s not really special. More than once the subject of two strangers, with totally different characters, spontaneously meeting each other and supporting each other so they can handle a difficult period, has already been used before. So here we have Wendy, a book critic and Darwan, a driving instructor. Wendy is an emotionally hurt, dignified lady. Because of her profession she has demarcated a territory around herself where both her husband and daughter aren’t allowed in. As a result Ted (Jake Webber) packs his bags and moves in with his mistress (a female writer whose books are also praised by Wendy). Darwan is a Sikh and next to being a driving instructor, he’s also a taxi driver at night. A person of traditions who sees it as his life’s work, to ensure that Wendy gets her license. Patiently and full of wise advices, he even gets her to drive over a bridge. He’s more of a psychiatrist with an instruction car as a relaxant seat.
Clarkson and Kingsley form a colorful duo. A mix of cultures. Clarkson, who also had the leading role in “October Gale“, is a charming lady I’d love to see shining next to Helen Mirren in another movie. Her charisma is overwhelming and her emotions felt sincere. In contrast there’s the calmness and patience of Kingsley. A distinguished and dignified character. The acting of the two main characters made sure this mainstream film was still enjoyable.
Ultimately “Learning to drive” is a tender and touching film full of symbolism. However, it lacks a bit of energy and progresses with a calm pace. A bit like how Wendy navigates through traffic. But it shouldn’t be always just about suspense and frenzy action scenes. Thanks to the brilliant performances of the two main actors, this movie was fun to watch. For me this movie passed the test.