MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Isabel Coixet. Starring Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley.
Wendy Shields (Clarkson) is a successful New York book critic whose marriage has just fallen apart. Since she lives in Manhattan, where many persons choose to rely on public transportation and taxis rather than pay exorbitant parking lot fees and face daily bumper-to-bumper traffic, she has never learned to drive. Wendy’s daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer) lives on a farm in Vermont. How are they to keep in touch?
Darwan (Kingsley) has come to America from India, a country where he faced religious persecution for his Sikh faith. He has since received citizenship but with a demotion in vocation. He was a professor in India; now he drives a cab by night and is a driving instructor during the day. He also provides sanctuary in his small Queens apartment for undocumented countrymen.
When an emotionally distraught Wendy hires Darwan’s cab but leaves a manuscript behind, the thoughtful cab driver makes his way to her apartment to return the document, this time behind the wheel of his driving school vehicle.
Kismet? Soon Wendy is taking driving lessons and learning from the wise instructor the parallels between driving and life. Slowly we discover that the teacher is also in the midst of changing life circumstances. These two persons from East and West may just be able to find solace in one another. The film is not particularly subtle in its life lessons (starting with its metaphorical title), but the two performances are very good and Kingsley gets a chance to revive the Indian accent that accompanied his first breakout role in 1982’s Gandhi.
I appreciated the screenplay’s attention to Darwan’s faith and the way it informs his life. Christians need to be reminded from time to time of the virtues of other world religions. The film’s use of sexual humor, however, was awkward and clumsy – kind of like sex, come to think of it – but not particularly funny.
Learning to Drive is a reminder that often when we are in need of help during a time of change, the answer to our prayers is provided by another person in need of us. That is the beauty of relationship: two persons receive mutual assistance by making themselves available to one another. Pay attention and you will discover this in the mysteries of friendship, marriage, family, community and church. It is the Kingdom of God, breaking in when you least expect it, in its undeterred resolution to bring all persons into loving community.
Four halos: A cross-cultural character study about midlife challenges and opportunities.
Three pitchforks: Occasional swearing; some sex talk and one humorous sex scene.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
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