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  Publicity Stills of
"Driving Lessons"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Jeremy Brock
Cast: Rupert Grint, Laura Linney, Julie Walters, Nicholas Farrell, Oliver Milburn, Michelle Duncan, Tamsin Eggerton
RunTime: 1 hr 38 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16 (Some Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/drivinglessons/

Opening Day: 26 June 2008


A coming of age story about Ben (Grint) an awkward and shy teenage boy trying to escape from the influence of his domineering devotely Christian mother Laura (Linney). His world changes when he begins working as an assistant to retired, second-rate, alcoholic actress Evie (Walters) Much to his mother's displeasure, Ben and Evie go camping together, and he's later tricked into driving her to Edinburgh for a poetry reading - convincing him by pretending that she's near death.

Movie Review:

The characters in Jeremy Brock’s “Driving Lessons” never seem to realise a better way out of their predicaments unless it comes on the backend of humiliation. They feel trapped in their own inadequacies while groping for pat answers for their insecurities on growing up, growing old and growing apart. The generational gap closes through absurdly derivative ideas on moving on and moving out. Revolving around the misadventures of a carrot-topped amateur poet Ben (Rupert Grint), a sad sack vicar’s (Nicholas Farrell) desperately unhappy teenage son beset by a domineering mum (Laura Linney) and a batty old ex-actress employer (Julie Walters in a reunion of sorts with Grint, both filming in between their roles as mother and son in the Harry Potter films), the film lazily repurposes trite life lessons and trivialises them by punching them up into clichés and easy gags.

Evie Walton (the former actress) staggers about her garden, cursing at her plants and very likely drunk out of her mind. On other days, she’s on the ground of a dank living room or hurling into the sink, once again being quite intoxicated. She puts up an ad in the local church bulletin (because you can’t very well trust just anybody to not take advantage of a single woman) for help running errands. Forced into a summer job by his unyieldingly stern mother, Ben picks up after Evie, follows her to the shops, and much to the chagrin of his mother, illegally chauffeurs her to Edinburgh for a literary festival – all while the film delights in forcibly pointing to the role reversals of responsibility between the defiantly indulgent old woman and the shy, insecure and unnaturally solemn teenager. Evie is the sort of bossily droll character that Walters has made a late career from; it’s a composite of what you’d find in “Billy Elliot”, “Calendar Girls”, “Mickybo and Me”, and the Harry Potter franchise.

Quite interestingly, the film does posit an undeniably villainous figure in his mother, within the context of a boy turning into a man. Laura Linney’s prim British accent is impeccable, and her presence and disquieting menace rings similar to her role in “The Nanny Diaries”. The film intriguingly gives her a sort of dislikable hypocrisy in her motivations when she’s beating down Ben’s confidence as a man as he tries to release himself from her tentacles. Religious for the sake of being a model Christian while indiscreetly making come-hither eyes at a handsome parishioner, the film’s not exactly kind to the church in its description of Ben’s home life, what with Ben’s father being as feeble at the dinner table as he is on the pulpits.

Jeremy Brockman makes his directorial debut here, but has been a successful screenplay writer (he penned “The Last King of Scotland” and the marvellous “Charlotte Gray”). This script claims, by its production notes, to be inspired by the director’s own formative experiences working one summer for a mercurial actress, one Dame Peggy Ashcroft. But its general genesis ends up anything but personal, or in any case, even original in the least. The story involving a young, disillusioned person who finds hope and comfort in the presence of weary, standoffish seniors is an unendingly popular premise. The different iterations of this basic idea find its own inherent humour and friction in this mentor/student dynamic. Clumsily plotted and overbearingly quirky to the point of fracture, Brockman callously disembarks from the intimate travails of manhood for the outlandishly minstrel.

Movie Rating:

(Silly film with no surprises, and no real connection to any of its characters)

Review by Justin Deimen


. December Boys (2007)

. The Nanny Diaries (2007)

. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)



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