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A young man's escape to Scotland - and from the ties that bind
Growing up is maybe a bit like learning to drive: lots of things you're not meant to do - at least when those in authority are watching. Staying on the straight and narrow can be difficult, especially if your teachers are awful.
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series) has had the misfortune to be born into a family with a preacher as a dad and a self-righteously over-bearing mother (Laura Linney). He breaks out of his imposed cocoon with the help of a retired actress (Julie Waters) and achieves his rite of passage. Driving Lessons is highly polished mainstream comedy that will keep you snickering under your breath all the way through your bible class. A large amount of f-words (and a UK 15 certificate) sadly prevent any 14yr-olds that haven't learnt to bluff effectively from seeing it. . . . oh, and there's a nice bit of sex, courtesy a good Scottish lass.
Ben answers an advert for a young man to help a retired actress in the house and garden. The eccentric Evie (Julie Walters) has soon whisked him off camping, and then taken him to Scotland where he Become A Man. He has to get rid of what Evie describes as the 'social autism' inculcated by his religious upbringing. His mum has been determinedly teaching Ben to drive (he fails his test) and things are not good in the parental marriage (but they are God's ambassadors and must show the world a smiling face). Ben learns that, "When the sh*t hits the fan, get a tent," although the road is long and sometimes hard. He also learns, through the power of impromptu drama and hard choices of conscience, that there is more to being a man than following the rules.
The road to and from Scotland is apparently a single track road that passes through such unlikely places Holyrood Park (which also just happens to have one of the best views of the city). But hey! The boy could have got lost! The whole movie has such lovable pacing and unpretentious detail that it is easy to forgive such quirks. The glimpse of the Edinburgh Festival, which is the biggest arts festival in the world, is achieved with remarkable panache. Evie and Ben arrive at the Caledonian Hotel and the Book Festival contact soon has him off to a nightclub and then her bed in the true spirit of Scottish hospitality. The soundtrack concocts a heady blend of Scottish folk, Salsa Celtica, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and Chopin's First Nocturne in B flat Minor. Loosely based on the director's own experiences growing up as a vicar's son and working for Dame Peggy Ashcroft, his portrait of middle class London suburbia hits all the right notes: perfectly correct on the outside, and full of abnormally screwed up people behind the net curtains. He pokes fun at religion without ever causing offence and is supported by superb actors and a talented crew.
This is such a good movie that it is hard to say anything bad about it. Sadly the only flaw lies in the undeveloped substance of its central theme, meaning that Driving Lessons will be enjoyed to the hilt today, but too easily forgotten when its ideas are already second nature.
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