© Alamode/Koch Media/Filmagentinnen

Learning to Drive – Fahrstunden fürs Leben (Learning to Drive)
U.S.A./U.K. 2014

Opening 6 Aug 2015

Directed by: Isabel Coixet
Writing credits: Sarah Kernochan
Principal actors: Grace Gummer, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Jake Weber, Daniela Lavender

Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) is sure it’s either male-menopause or his traditional seven-year-itch when Ted (Jake Weber), after 21 years of marriage, walks out. Unfortunately, Tasha’s (Grace Gummer) task is to set her mother straight. Currently living in Vermont on a farm, Tasha encourages mom to visit; Wendy hedges so Tasha pushes her to learn to drive. By chance, a driving instructor falls into Wendy’s sphere, so lessons begin. With life unraveling against her will, Darwin’s (Ben Kingsley) patience works overtime. As they move from circling the block to wider horizons, Darwin’s driving instruction extends to necessary behavior points. Equally, as Jasleen’s (Sarita Choudhury) arrival approaches Wendy proffers instruction in return. Cultural differences -- a Sikh Indian and a strong-willed female professional -- embellish their revelations with innuendos. Wendy takes control, just as Darwin learns to relinquish some.

Clarkson and Kingsley wanted to make this film for many years. After working with director Isabel Coixet on Elegy (2008), they approached her with the script, finally realizing this delightful comedy-drama about life’s curveballs. The quick-witted dialogue and pacing accentuate the unpredictable shifts that occur at important turning points in the protagonists’ lives; Clarkson and Kingsley’s rapport is downright fun to behold. Cruising around New York City, the production crew is driven: Manel Ruiz’s nifty camerawork, Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks’ encompassing music, and Keith Reamer and Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing. Screenwriter Sarah Kernochan’s back-story has some hiccups, but the main narrative overrides them. There is even a plug for hold-in-your-hands books in this entertaining, laugh-out-loud film. (Marinell Haegelin)

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