Director Isabel Coixet's slice-of-life comedy/drama Learning to Drive stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a middle-aged book critic/writer who is crushed when her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaves her. In order to visit her daughter, Tasha (Grace Gummer), who lives in Vermont, Wendy begins taking driving lessons from Darwan (Ben Kingsley) a Sikh American citizen who makes a living as a cabbie and driving instructor. Wendy and Darwan develop a friendship behind the wheel while each attempt to reclaim and redefine their lives. Wendy and her sister Debbie (Samantha Bee) share some amusing moments of wit and comedic wisdom.
In this rather poignant story, much is revealed and unraveled in the front seat of a car when two people from diverse life experiences intersect for the purpose of “Learning to Drive.” But who’s teaching who in this tale of steering through second adulthoods? Ben Kingsley delivers a gentle, subtle and skillful portrayal, and Patricia Clarkson’s characterization of an actual middle-aged woman playing a middle-aged woman on screen (how novel) who “loves words” is delightful and layered as she searches for the courage to embrace her newfound freedom. The story holds many messages about having the audacity to redefine our lives when unexpected circumstances commandeer the wheel, and take us to unforeseen places. It’s abundantly rich with lessons and metaphors about learning to navigate through life’s detours and bumps in order to find oneself and self-trust. It muses the questions: What drives us to persist, pursue, grow and heal from loss and grief? Simply stated, someone who believes in us when we no longer do; someone who encourages us when we feel discouraged or defeated; and someone who pushes us beyond our perceived limits. This unlikely pairing reminds us that we are all seeking the same – To love and feel loved.
Learning to Drive may not hit home for audiences who prefer special effects and fall-out-of your-seat excitement, but it will attract the sentimental moviegoer who is looking for an intelligent unique slice-of-life story.
Catch it for yourself in theaters August 21st!