"Learning To Drive is a pleasant film that, while not great, has much to offer in performance alone."
In 1982, Ben Kingsley channelled his Indian roots in his Oscar-winning turn as Gandhi in the film of the same name. This year he brings his immaculate character acting skills to a different Indian character in Learning To Drive.
Based on a New Yorker article, the film follows Darwan Singh Tur (Ben Kingsley), an Indian migrant cab driver and driving teacher in New York who enters the world of Wendy Shields (Patricia Clarkson) after her husband dumps her in his cab. From this moment an unlikely bond forms as Darwan is employed to teach Wendy to drive.
This small, independent comedy/drama is charming yet predictable. Despite its plodding pace, there are solid themes of diversity, culture/racial difference and relationships in New York. All these themes are easily interwoven into the act of learning to drive a car to very nice effect.
The film stays afloat due to its actors, namely Kingsley and Clarkson. Kingsley shows his strong ability to become immersed in character, giving a layered and focused performance. Clarkson, one of the most underrated actresses of the last quarter century gives a likeable, plucky, nuanced portrayal of a woman struggling to move forward in life.
Learning To Drive is a pleasant film that, while not great, has much to offer in performance alone.
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