Monday, 18 March 2019

Stellar leads keep the motor running

STRONG themes of emotions, sentiment and existential conflict run deep in Isabel Coixet’s films and are

STRONG themes of emotions, sentiment and existential conflict run deep in Isabel Coixet’s films and are ever-present here.

The award-winning director seems to have mixed perfectly the balance of friendship, love and helplessness in her most recent film, Learning to Drive.

So much so that it has to date been nominated for and won awards at five separate film festivals worldwide.

The film takes the audience on the sort of emotional rollercoaster of real-life drama that many people can readily relate to.

Wendy, played by Patricia Clarkson, is a fiery Manhattan author whose husband has just left her for a younger woman. Darwan, played by Ben Kingsley, is a soft-spoken taxi driver from India on the verge of an arranged marriage.

As Wendy sets out to reclaim her independence, she runs into a barrier common to many lifelong New Yorkers — she’s never learned to drive. When Wendy hires Darwan to teach her, her unravelling life and his calm restraint seem like an awkward fit.

But as he shows her how to take control of the wheel, and she coaches him on how to impress a woman, their unlikely friendship awakens them to the joy, humour and love in starting life anew.

Patricia Clarkson was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her work on 2003’s Pieces of April.

That same year, she starred alongside Peter Dinklage and Bobby Cannavale in Tom McCarthy’s critically acclaimed The Station Agent. She also featured in the long-running HBO drama Six Feet Under. Ben Kingsley famously won the best actor Oscar for his starring role in Gandhi (1982). Other landmark roles followed in Schindler’s List (1993) and Sexy Beast (2000). He was knighted in 2002.

Kingsley and Clarkson previously collaborated with director Isabel Coixet on 2008’s Elegy, based on the novel The Dying Animal by Philip Roth, about a professor’s final love affair.

With Learning to Drive billed as a feelgood, coming of (middle) age comedy, it’s safe to say this collaboration is considerably more upbeat.

The film is showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse from today (Friday).

Review: Max Finch

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