Loving. Healing. Learning. Growing. Tolerance. These are all facets of life. How we choose to deal with them is what makes life either so very exciting that it is worth living or so utterly boring that we become complacent.
Isabel Coixet’s Learning To Drive beautifully explores those themes on an international stage. Set in midtown Manhattan, Wendy (Patricia Clarkson), a prolific writer has let her work dominate her life so much so that she has missed many of the signs of a failed marriage to her husband Ted (Jake Weber). As she picks up the shattered pieces of her life, she meets Darwan (Ben Kingsley), a Sikh driving instructor with relationship problems of his own.
The wonderfully funny and eye-opening story by Sarah Kernochan (2000’s What Lies Beneath) is at the heart of this film. Certainly Clarkson and Webber bring their own styles to their roles, but Kingsley steals the show. The bond between teacher and student is so tight, a credit to Kingsley and Clarkson’s performances.
Keith Reamer and Thelma Schoonmaker’s tight editing, along with a strong story and acting make the 90-minute running time go by so very quickly. Just like life, it flows naturally. They captured the essence of the relationships, both broken and growing. Another strong facet is Manel Ruiz’s cinematography, capturing the beauty of the changing New England seasons, while paying great respect to Sikh traditions and practices. Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks’ score deftly steeps the film in the global melting pot that is New York City, merging beautiful Indian beats with the tenseness of trying to forge relationships among the teeming life of the five boroughs.
Life has a funny way of giving signals when we least pay attention. Learning To Drive has the power to open our eyes to the modern world and is recommended.