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Driving Lessons
3/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Jeremy Brock
with Rupert Grint, Julie Walters, Laura Linney, Nicholas Farrell, Michelle Duncan, Oliver Milburn, Tamsin Egerton, Jim Norton, Rose Keegan, Rupert Holliday, Chandra Ruegg, John Yule
release UK 8.Sep.06, US 13.Sep.06
06/UK Content 1h40

Driving Dame Evie: Walters and Grint

grint walters linney
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JULIE WALTERS

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Driving Lessons Based on writer-director Brock's experiences, this film is full of strong themes and witty interaction between its excellent cast. But it comes undone when it attempts to wrap things up.

Ben (Grint) is a naive 17-year-old living a sheltered life in North London as the son of an open-minded vicar (Farrell) and an extremely pious, protective mother (Linney), who's teaching him to drive. But he's not learning much. He takes a job as an assistant to a colourful has-been actress, Dame Evie (Walters), who opens Ben's eyes to freedom and art, especially when they take an impromptu road trip to Edinburgh. But his mother is not happy about her son leaving his secure nest.

The opening act is lively and engaging, with strongly defined characters, zinging dialog and situations that are both silly and believable. Walters is absolutely wonderful--hilariously foul-mouthed, challenging Ben's beliefs ("You're so young and so pedantic!") and pushing him to be himself in a subculture that encourages conformity and blind obedience.

And Grint is a terrific foil for her. He maintains the character beautifully, letting us travel from inexperience to the first whiff of self-discovery and independence. It's a remarkably subtle coming-of-age story, and nothing we've seen Grint do before quite prepares us for the delicacy of this performance. Their strong chemistry intriguingly suggests Harold & Maude (without the sex).

Linney, on the other hand, has no shading at all; she struggles with the accent and comes across as far too imperious and glowering. (This role cries out for Juliet Stevenson, who continually adds texture, humour and pathos to characters like this.) Farrell is good in a slightly sidelined part.

Other problems begin to creep in at the end, when weak subplots (featuring cross-dressing tenant Norton and flirty curate Mulborn) emerge to break the flow of the main story and the film heads into a painfully clumsy climax. It's as if Brock couldn't bear to part with his precious quirks for the sake of the stronger central narrative. There's still a terrific story here, with solid acting (Walters is worth the price of admission), but it could have been a real gem.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 21.Jul.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Driving Lessons Noemi, NY: 3/5 "I like the movie, mainly because of Julie Walters. She was great in it, sometimes over the top but nonetheless great. Laura was also good but the usual upset and dominant character she always plays - makes me think she is kind of like that in real life. Rupert showed at times to be wooden and it was hard to get his emotions, but he was alright compared to his costars. But the one who stole the movie was none other than Julie - she had a fantastic role to play!" (4.Aug.06)
2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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