For its third fall presentation, the Vernon Film Society has chosen Learning to Drive, the runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
Adapted from an essay in The New Yorker by Katha Pollitt, the movie lightly touches on many subjects: divorce, rage, financial warfare, conflicting philosophies of marriage, and mother-daughter strife.
Wendy (Patricia Clarkson, Cairo Time), a successful and self-obsessed book editor, comes home to her New York City brownstone one day to find her husband Ted (Jake Weber) leaving her — again. But this time it’s for good, and Wendy’s initial denial turns into grief, anger, and a determination to become self-sufficient — part of which involves finally learning to drive so that she can visit her daughter at college in Vermont.
Although Wendy’s resolve wavers when she’s faced with the confusing jumble of an automobile dashboard, she finds a source of strength in her conscientious driving instructor, Darwan (Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island).
Darwan is a Sikh part-time cabdriver who was a university professor in India, imprisoned for his religious beliefs. His lessons in patience and concentration convey a calm, farsighted perspective steeped in Eastern philosophy.
As Darwan guides Wendy through her automotive education, his seemingly infinite patience invites her to open up about her problems. In turn, Wendy’s volatile feelings about her changing marital status serve to highlight Darwan’s concerns about his own impending marriage, and the pair’s relationship soon begins to evolve in unexpected ways.
Observant and sweetly funny, Learning to Drive is a reminder that two people from very different backgrounds can achieve communication, understanding, and intimacy even in the most unlikely situations.
Learning to Drive screens Monday, Oct. 19 at the Towne Cinema at the regular times of 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. Tickets are available one week ahead at the Towne and the Bean Scene for $7. Cash only. The film is rated R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for strong language and some sexual content.