by Sandra Kraisirideja
Patricia Clarkson plays a woman coming to terms with the end of her 21 year marriage in the light-hearted comedy “Learning to Drive.”
Ben Kingsley also stars as a Sikh driving instructor who helps guide Clarkson’s character, Wendy, toward greater independence.
A woman rediscovering herself is not a new subject in the movies, but “Learning to Drive” is unique in that Wendy isn’t pulled out of her situation by the simple act of falling in love. Director Isabel Coixet and writer Sarah Kernochan should be given a lot of credit for keeping this movie from becoming too predictable.
The movie demonstrates how personal growth can be achieved with a fairly mundane accomplishment, like learning to drive.
Wendy doesn’t go through a huge, life-changing transformation and life is like that for most people. An unpleasant, difficult thing can happen and life goes on. You hope you become a little stronger or more resilient but it’s not often a dramatic change.
It’s refreshing to see a male-female relationship between two mature adults remain a friendship. These characters are also some of the most normal I’ve seen in film for some time and it was great to see normal people dealing with normal problems in a normal way. There were heightened intense moments where hard truths have to be dealt with in order for the story to resolve.
It’s OK to enjoy a movie without big explosions, global emergencies or complex plot devices. “Learning to Drive” has a simple story and is still enormously entertaining. It is just as nice to spend some time with regular people as it is to be swept away to exotic, international locales.
The direction and editing are all done with competence and confidence. The performances are believable and steady. Both Clarkson and Kingsley do what we expect of them, which is to do good work. Both understand the tone of this movie and don’t try to make it anything more, which is a good thing here.
“Learning to Drive” was a nice, pleasant movie that was enjoyable to watch.