Learning to Drive

A modest and warm feel-good film

An insecure, middle-aged NYC book critic (Patricia Clarkson, terrific as always) whose professor husband has just left her for a student coed gets it into her head to take driving lessons so she can visit her college-age daughter in Vermont. A world-wise Sikh cab driver—is there anything Ben Kingsley can’t do?—is nervously awaiting the arrival from India of an arranged bride he has never seen. He moonlights as a driving instructor.

The two meet when she leaves a document envelope in his cab, and he tracks her down. He begins to teach her how to operate an automobile, they bond, and both learn life lessons. The very title of this fine, modest film from Catalonian director Isobel Coixet (My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words) fairly screams “metaphor.” The most obvious is the title activity leading to increased independence, but look for others.

Written by Sarah Kernochan and based on an article in The New Yorker. It’s funny, relative, and even a little romantic. Those who expect guns and car chases in their movies may find it a bit slow, but grown-ups will appreciate this warm, feel-good film’s subtle aftertaste. Japanese title: Shiawase e no Mawari Michi. (90 min)