Learning to Drive

Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson in Learning to Drive. (NuMetro)
Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson in Learning to Drive. (NuMetro)

What it’s about:

This film is about two character’s lives intersecting in a taxi on the mean streets of New York. A woman named Wendy (Clarkson) whose entire world is falling apart at the seams and a man named Darwan (Kingsley) who is trying to survive in the not-so-brave New World. It is a love story of sorts but it is more of an inspirational story about learning to do what you never thought you could. So in short: probably a good date movie. Or maybe good for someone who has just been through a break-up. Probably a bit of both.

What we thought:

Processing how I felt about this movie took me some time because it has flaws (that I will unpack later) but I walked away liking it. It’s like a when you get into icy cold water and cringe but then before you know it you forget about the sting and revel in it.

First I’ll tell you what I didn’t like then I’ll tell you what I did. Because it will be like the film in the way that I started off with reservations but dug it by the end.

1. The feeling that I knew what was coming next. There are very little twists and spicy bits.

2. Everyone has a lot of feelings about everything. These people make going to shops seem like an emotional moment. I mean in the context of all of the moments it always made sense but it’s obviously a script device at a certain point and I got over it. There are also a lot of fights between characters which isn’t a bad thing in itself but it’s a bit overwrought. Like we get it, you guys see the world differently.

Things that I liked and made me feel warm and fuzzy:

1. Listen, first and foremost, Ben Kingsley. I know that he wore brown face for this and cultural appropriation is a thing but (put that to the side and unpack it in another forum because it is complicated needs it’s own space which isn’t this one. Do not @ me with your multi-paragraph tweets please) he delivers in this role.

2. As overwrought as some moments are there are a little moments that are great. Looks and tiny touches that make you feel like this story is possible because there are good people in the world who deserve good things to happen to them.

3. A love story that isn’t about man and woman falling for each other (completely) but more about someone realising that she can do pretty much anything that she wants to do. That overall feeling I guess, that even though you might struggle to do something the first twenty-five or so times that you try and do it doesn’t mean that you are never meant to do it. Some things just take a bit of hard graft and practice.

There are those among you that will want me to call this a chick flick but I always find that such a problematic turn-of-phrase. Because it implies that some movies are just for women and that others are just for men. And that’s not the case. Gender and sexuality do not and should not be seen to operate in binaries. If you like to drink beer and wear rugby jerseys you should still go see this movie for a pick me up after your break-up. Don’t let your idea of what masculinity should be stop you from having a good time at the movies.