As her marriage dissolves, a Manhattan writer takes driving lessons from a Sikh instructor with marriage troubles of his own. In each other's company they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to take the wheel.
Wendy (Patricia Clarkson), a self-absorbed New York book critic, is shocked to reality by the sudden end of her marriage. Always dependent on her husband for driving, she must now learn to take the wheel on her own. Her instructor Darwan (Ben Kingsley) is a Sikh Indian who watches with alarm as his pupil falls apart at the seams. He himself is contemplating an arranged marriage with a woman he has never met. As these two lives intersect, both will change in unpredictable ways.Written by
At the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival screening, Patricia Clarkson revealed that her name was attached to this project for nine years, and didn't drop out of it because she loved the script. See more »
Slow down. Park there. Mr. Yampolsky, you have followed all the rules. You'll pass your test tomorrow, I'm sure of it. And after you get your license, I suspect you'll buy the biggest, fastest car, and throw all the rules out of the window.
It is not a joke. Remember driving is a freedom. I wish you to enjoy every kind of freedom... As long as you don't hurt someone. You promise me?
Okay, Mr. Singh.
Mr. Singh Tur.
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Beautiful collision of culture and humanity with a master class of acting
'Learning to drive' is a master class in writing; directing and of course the performance of two of the great character actors: Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. There is a nobility and dignity to the story that comes from a taut but compassionate screenplay; and the wonderful interplay between the two leads. Clarkson always makes such interesting choices in projects and this is no exception. Her 'Wendy' has a lot to process during the opening moments of the movie; and it is thanks to her exquisite timing and believability; that despite her cathartic scenes early on; perhaps because of them; the audience is with her and her scenario all the way! With the age old construct of an odd pairing; Kingsley's often Zen like 'Darwan' provides the calming influence and ultimately a reciprocity that gives this film its huge warmth and overall success.
In the role of Wendy's daughter is none other than the daughter of another cinematic delight - Meryl Streep: the uncannily voiced and mannered Grace Gummer. How daunting it must be for Grace and her sister Mamie, to hone a craft in screen acting with their legendary mother's presence in film culture. Grace displays her mother's exuberance and complexity with what is really only a couple of scenes here, but makes her mark. But the film, despite some other subplots and ancillary characters, rests with Clarkson and Kinglsey and they are just superb.
If the film feels tight and rhythmically organic; it is due to Martin Scorsese's long time editor Thelma Schoonmaker who brings Isabel Coixet's carefully directed piece together with ease and no fuss; giving it a smooth and perfect running time. This is no epic; no earth shattering movie; but a reflective and nuanced dance between characters from different worlds who collide in the nicest way possible and leave a significant imprint on one another. Not a new idea, but in the hands of these expert filmmakers; it is a joy to be in their audience for the hour and a half journey.
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