There are movies where I get out of the cinema, immediately start taking notes on my phone, and can’t wait to finally get around and write my review. And then there are movies where I am at a loss of words. Not because they’re terrible, but because I don’t really have that much to say about them. Case in point: “Learning to Drive” – which is why I struggled with this review more and longer than usual. It was the surprise feature of this years “Kino wie noch nie” open-air-cinema festival in Vienna, and if hadn’t seen it there (or if I would have known that they would play it in advance) I probably would never have seen it at all. And while I don’t regret watching it, I also don’t think that I would have missed much.
At its center, “Learning to Drive” is about picking yourself up after life dealt you a considerable blow. In this case, Wendy not only learns that her husband has cheated on her (again), but that he’s in love with this woman, and thus is going to leave her, and file for divorce. Over the course of the movie, Wendy goes through the commonly known five stages of grief (which were a little bit too apparently shown for my taste), until finally getting her life back together – which is symbolized here by, as the title suggests, learning how to drive (which also symbolizes a higher level of independence than she had even before her life started to fall apart). More than the driving lessons themselves, however, her healing comes thanks to a new connection that she forms, with her driving instructor Darwan. Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley are great in their respective roles, and I quite enjoyed the insight into Sikh culture. Unfortunately, I have very little tolerance for arranged marriages, and as much as “Learning to Drive” tries to explain the reasoning behind it, that part of the movie didn’t really work for me. Also, the entire movie is rather fluff, without any real substance to it. It’s nice and sweet and well acted and ideal (light) summer fare – but it’s also a movie that peels off quicker than gentle summer rain from your windshield while driving.