A Film About Friendship

learning_to_drive_posterMy wife and I surfed around the great and mighty Amazon the other night and found an enjoyable film that we thought was surprisingly good. At least compared to the dregs that appear on the listings I see there.

The wiki-listing is here. I found their quote from Rotten Tomatoes interesting:

The story’s a bit predictable, but Learning to Drive is elevated by typically strong work from stars Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

And I found that a perky comment. RT is right about the leads. But the Hollywood predictable element might have had two mismatched persons fall in love and get married. But the last bit doesn’t quite happen here, at the risk of spoiling a film you readers might want to see.

I thought the emotional lives of two middle-aged people were very well-written. Ms Clarkson’s character has been abandoned by her husband for a younger woman. Mr Kingsley portrays a Sikh emigre from India who is about to receive a bride from the old country.

The film touches on loneliness, family relationships, racism, class, anger, isolation, fear, and especially friendship. The viewer is drawn pretty deeply into the characters’ lives, so much so that I found myself cringing as I would if I were exposed to real abuse or embarrassment for a friend. Perhaps that makes for a successful effort in cinema.

The filmmaker/screenwriter present the final scene between the two leads with great honesty and sensitivity. I think studios are making movies with more subltlety these days, but I was still surprised at this ending, which left me pleased.

There’s one bedroom scene of casual sex which at first I didn’t think added anything to the overall narrative. But on second thought, it seems to serve to contrast the deeper friendship between Wendy and Darwan. There’s a much deeper intimacy between friends who have lifted up each other in turn out of a situation of being mostly lost. And that, if you can find it among friends, is something very good indeed.

Sirach 6:14-16 comes to mind:

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.

Learning to Drive is about that.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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