Learning to drive can be thrilling, risky, and surprising, but “Learning to Drive” is none of those things. It is instead a perfectly pleasant 90-minute diversion with little conflict and no major drama, a sunny entry in the sub-genre of Indie Films Where Two People from Different Walks of Life Are Brought Together to Learn About Themselves (still working on the name).
Directed by Isabel Coixet (“Elegy”) with an emphasis on the actors’ expressive faces, the unassuming film stars Ben Kingsley as Darwan, an Indian Sikh working in New York as a cabbie and driving instructor; and Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a tony book critic whose sudden abandonment by her husband (Jake Weber) has her seeking new horizons — including getting a driver’s license, which she never needed before.
Sarah Kernochan’s screenplay is sophisticated and humorous, respectful of Darwan’s religion (and arranged marriage), if also overloaded with driving-as-metaphor-for-life dialogue. But it’s Kingsley and Clarkson who give it life, using their considerable talent to imbue two fairly unremarkable movie characters with humanity and grace. You could watch these two act all day.
B (1 hr., 30 min.; )