Learning to Drive

Going through a messy divorce, a New York literary critic (Patricia Clarkson) enters into a friendship with the gentle Sikh Indian (Ben Kingsley) who’s teaching her to drive. Director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, Elegy) takes a tidy, naturalistic approach, allowing her two leads (both superb) to dominate this warmhearted character study. Sarah Kernochan’s script offers no big surprises—Clarkson becomes more confident, Kingsley gets in touch with his feminine side—yet the characters are realized with such sympathy and nuance that I didn’t mind. The film also provides an interesting view into Sikh culture, illustrating in colorful detail the various rituals that inform the devout driving instructor’s personal life.