18 October 2015 | david-rector-85092
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.