The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, focuses on Wendy, a writer in New York who is struggling to cope with the fact that her husband leaves her for a much younger woman after giving “adultery a spin.” She is finally forced to learn how to drive — her husband previously did all the driving — and meets a Sikh cab driver, Darwan (Kingsley), who is willing to teach her how. Coixet described the film to Women and Hollywood as “a sweet and sour comedy about the unlikely friendship between a woman and a man… coming from two different universes.” It was the “possibility to explore the world of friendship between these two completely opposite characters, and also the Sikh community in NYC,” that drew Coixet to the project.
The trailer shows us Wendy and Darwan bonding over their pasts, present, and futures — including Wendy giving Darwan advice about “what women want.” We discover that learning to drive is much more loaded for Wendy than being able to get from place to place. “Why did I ever think I could drive? I ignore everything and everybody around me,” she confesses.
“Learning to Drive” is a reunion of sorts for its cast and director. Coixet previously directed Clarkson and Kingsley in the 2008 film adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Elegy.” Of collaborating with Coixet, Kingsley has said, “Of all the great directors I’ve worked with, Scorsese is the master of male vulnerability. I think Isabel is his female equivalent. All the great ones, they’re right there, watching. She operates the camera, so what you see on the screen is what she has seen down the lens. I felt immensely empowered as an actor, because you never have to worry that she’s going to miss that moment where something special happens.” High praise from someone who has worked with dozens of directors in a career that spans six decades.
“Learning to Drive” will be released in theaters on August 21.