Those of us who have our driver’s license and our own car tend to forget how liberating this is and how much of an inconvenience it is not having these things.
This film focuses on two very different New Yorkers.
Wendy Shields (Patricia Clarkson) is prominent author and literary critic who lives in an expensive apartment.
Originally from India, Darwan Singh Tur (Ben Kingsley) is a driving instructor who moonlights as a cab driver and lives in a run-down share house in Queens.
These characters meet early on in the film when Wendy and her husband Ted (Jake Weber) get into Darwan’s cab after Ted has just confessed that he’s cheated on his wife with a younger woman.
As Wendy struggles to cope with her situation over the following days, she reveals that she never learned to drive (as Ted was always there to drive her).
This issue is a rather contentious one between her and her daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer).
After Darwan arrives at Wendy’s place to return a parcel that was left in his cab, she decides to take driving lessons from him.
As the driving lessons progress, the two characters reveal a lot about themselves, both in their conversations and how the lessons progress.
Wendy has a lot of self-confidence issues on the road and is often distracted by thoughts of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.
Darwan is a strict but very patient driving instructor who almost sees it as his duty to help Wendy get her driver’s license.
He also reveals that he is a political refugee from India.
As the film progresses, the student-teacher dynamic between Darwan and Wendy becomes blurred and somewhat complicated as Darwan asks Wendy for advice about topics such as women.
Ultimately, it is this reversible dynamic that drives the film on. Considering that the vast majority of the film focusses on these two characters, the actors who play them do a great job of playing out this dynamic and this is definitely the film’s strongest point.
Details: Learning to Drive | release date 8 October.
Words by Alex Carrette
Image credit Learning to Drive