Isabel Coixet bring us an insightful, refreshing and mercifully cliché-free look at a woman in her early 60s learning to start over through learning to drive.
Wendy, a New York book critic (played by the marvelous Patricia Clarkson) whose husband, Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her after 21 years of marriage decides she must channel her rage at her husband into learning to drive not just to visit her daughter but also to regain her identity as an I rather than We. Enter part time driving instructor and taxi driver, Darwan, (played with gusto by Ben Kingsley) who is also going through his own self discovery from singleton to one of husband. Even though Darwan and Wendy live two very different experiences of New York life, it is their friendship that bridges the cultural divide and how they deal with loneliness, triumph and love are all ones that we can identify with in Learning To Drive.
This is a hidden gem of a movie that is multi-layered. The main narrative is that of how does a 60 year old woman start over after being left by her husband for another woman. How do you rebuild a world and in the end what constitutes a home: bricks and mortar or the people within in. Patricia Clarkson’s nuanced and measured performance makes every scene she appears in sparkle. As for Ben Kingsley, he too converys through gestures and a simple regard the angst that Darwan goes through adapting to his life in Amercia: the constant battles he faces as an immigrant especially post 9/11 and then as a husband adapting to that life.
The entire 90 mins of the movie was engaging and the dialogue natural, refreshing and genuinely funny. One of my favourite scenes is the discussion of why men leave women and it’s suggested the lack of blow jobs may have something to do with it to which the retort is: “This mouth is retired with a full pension”. Classic. Therein lies the beauty of this film, it is not clichéd or melodramatic about women in their 60s starting over. It’s a delight to seeing older actresses playing roles that are interesting, multi-layered and challenging.
Learning To Drive was shown as part of the Directors’ Showcase at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015.
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