“Learning to Drive” is an engaging, heartfelt film, a story well told through genuine performances from the great Ben Kingsley and a sincere Patricia Clarkson.
Two middle age people meet at transition points in their lives. Clarkson, as a New York writer/critic who never got her driver’s license, wants to learn to drive as both a symbol and act of independence after learning that her husband of many years wants a divorce to go live with the woman with whom he’s been cheating. Kingsley, totally believable as a political refugee from India (while not channeling Gandhi), is a driving instructor hired to teach Clarkson to drive. He is about to pursue an arranged marriage to a woman from his old village after being single his entire life.
What follows are their separate stories and their shared experiences, mostly from inside a compact Student Driver car, which evoke humor, sadness, some Eastern philosophy and an undercurrent of budding affection that creates a degree of audience anticipation. As a bonus, there are some wonderful scenes of New York City sights and no overblown special effects or heavy handedness to get in the way of the light touch, feeling and message of this film.
See it for yourself in theaters August 21st.