"Learning to Drive" stars Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley as an unlikely pair of friends who through chance circumstances help each other ford ahead on their intersecting and oftentimes bumpy road of life.
Wendy (Clarkson) is in the process of being dumped by her husband of 21 years in the back of a cab. The discomfort the cabbie, Darwan (Kingsley) feels as he witnesses this raw scene taking place in his back seat is palpable as he delivers this emotionally broken woman to her empty home. Darwan returns to Wendy's abode the next day to deliver a package left in the cab. The bleary-eyed Wendy focuses in on Darwan's car, a driver's education vehicle, and spontaneously asks him for lessons. Living in NYC doesn't require driving, but Wendy's need to push herself outside her cluttered, but safe environment seems crucial. Although growing up worlds apart, the two find that beneath their expansive cultural differences, there is a bridge connecting them, shifting their lives into another gear.
Clarkson is the epitome of style at any age and she has the power to portray this educated, sophisticated, strong and resilient woman who has been deeply hurt. The subtleties in her expressions skillfully augment her every thought. Clarkson's nuances in acting have truly become even more refined and dignified, making her character portrayal even more sincere.
Kingsley is Clarkson's male counterpart in the acting arena. He skillfully plays a Sikh who by nature is peace-loving. Kingsley expertly gives us a performance that we see much more than meets the eye. And the connection between the two characters surpasses any expectations, creating a realistic bond.
It is the writing in this film that truly makes it stand above the typical Hollywood norm. Capturing the visual and emotional brilliance of different cultures and the grey shades of worry, uncertainty, and humility gives a depth to the film on a unique level. And the use of daydreams allows us to get to know Wendy even better while taxing Darwan's patience. Within these complex individuals, humor is also woven expertly into their lives, not just emotional turmoil. Almost magically, the script encompasses not only love, but prejudice, obligation, betrayal, and loyalty. Finding a way to stitch all of these elements together is a truly refreshing story-telling style.
Life is complex as "Learning to Drive" portrays, but it is just a slice of life of two ordinary people experiencing typical events, but in extraordinary ways. And just as with real life, there are always lessons to be learned and you're not quite sure what's waiting at the end of the road.
"Learning to Drive" steers us directly into oncoming traffic, only to swiftly and assuredly navigate us to safety. This cerebral speedway warms your heart, surprises you, and enlightens you. With creative writing and adept acting, it's a film that will transport you to a better place in life.