Learning to Drive DVD Review

     Actors: Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Grace Gummer
  • Director: Isabel Coixet
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: Broad Green Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: January 19, 2016
  • Run Time: 90 minutes


            Learning to Drive has a familiar set-up, and it doesn’t take long to figure out where the story is heading. It takes remarkably longer for the film to actually get there, stumbling down the well-worn narrative path, easily distracted by unnecessary and redundant sequences. Boiled down to its essence, Learning to Drive is little more than a short film which has been bloated by repeated sequences pounding the transparent metaphor of the title into audiences’ brains. It is a mild and innocuous; not so much bad as it is bland and forgettable, despite the best efforts from its stars.  


            The film opens with a chance encounter between Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) and Darwan (Ben Kingsley) on the streets of Manhattan. Wendy is a successful author whose husband (Jake Weber) announces he is leaving her during a cab ride home, and Darwan is the Sikh driver forced to deal with the aftermath of this bombshell. Wendy feels some sort of connection to Darwan after sharing this unfortunate moment with him, and so she hires him to help her learn how to drive as the beginnings of her plan for recovered independence. 


            Darwan falls a little too easily into the role of stereotypical hardworking immigrant, keeping several jobs in order to bring over a wife for an arranged marriage, despite the constant battle against stereotyping and cultural ignorance because of the turban he wears. He is stoically wise and kind, providing as much wisdom about life as he does about driving. Moments of the film almost begin to address what it is like to look as Darwan does and live in New York City, but the larger issues are mostly dismissed to focus on the unexplained connection between Wendy and her driving teacher.


            There is little glaringly wrong with Learning to Drive, though it also does little to stand out or earn the emotions of the climactic scene. I mostly had to figure out where the story was going through expectations and familiarity, with too many of the scenes themselves feeling out-of-place. My attention span eventually lost in the battle to focus on this narrative, though it makes adequate background noise for lonely people doing chores around the house. The DVD special feature only includes a photo gallery. 


    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10

    Historical Significance:  3/10

    Special Features: 2/10

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