Country: USA / UK
Movie Review: “Learning to Drive” expeditiously mixes drama, comedy and romance, relying on the always outstanding Patricia Clarkson and the multifaceted Ben Kingsley in the main roles, to create a feel-good movie, set in NYC, where the ethnic diversity reigns and the work messes so many times with people’s lives. The film marks the return of the Catalonian filmmaker Isabel Coixet, known for her deeply existential dramas such as “My Life Without Me”, “The Secret Life of Words”, and also “Elegy”, which had the participation of this same duo of actors. For this script by Sarah Kernochan based upon an article written for ‘The New Yorker’, she adopts a lighter mood and funnier posture, aspects that, despite bringing a sense of déjà-vu, worked charmingly within the context of the story and its location. The opening scenes are the strongest, establishing the proper foundations for what will come. The insecure literary reviewer, Wendy (Clarkson), jumps into the cab of Darwan Tur (Kingsley), in the middle of a big argument with her husband, Ted, who just expressed his intention to leave her after admitting an affair with a younger student. Unable to cope with the situation and lacking self-confidence, Wendy would never dream to get close to Darwan, a graduated American citizen of Indian descent, who lives in Queens with his undocumented nephew. All happened when she decided to take driving lessons with the acquainted cab driver. From then on, we are presented with some street adventures with Wendy taking the wheel, and also with the arrival from India of Darwan’s future wife, a modest woman sent by his sister, whom he had never met before. The lessons won’t make every problem disappear, but will have a positive effect on their personal lives. The film succeeds in most of its jokes while keeping projecting the NY warmness on its frames. Some situations of the storytelling, however, didn’t feel so new while other aspects, like Wendy’s imaginary encounters and her daughter’s amorous letdown, lacked relevance.