Wendy is a successful book critic whose husband has just told her he’s filing for divorce when she jumps in a cab. Darwan, an Indian Sikh who also teaches driving lessons, is the driver. When Wendy starts taking driving lessons from Darwan so she can visit her daughter in Vermont, the two unexpectedly become friends as they navigate work, relationships, and life in New York City.
Learning to Drive is a leisurely, character-driven movie billed as a “comedy drama,” and while the film is fun and engaging, don’t expect to bust a gut when you watch it. The overall tone is more hopeful and reflective with a hint of the bittersweet than hilarious or goofy. Funny moments do pop up here and there, but some scenes where the filmmakers may have been trying for comedy come across as more awkward and uncomfortable (to this viewer, at least). But don’t let my shortage of laughs stop you from watching this film. Wendy and Darwan are wonderfully relatable and flawed characters, who grow into stronger people during the course of the movie. Though religion and racial politics are topics that come up, the story focuses more on Darwan’s and Wendy’s attempts to navigate relationships and what they want and expect from themselves and others. The result is a heartwarming story that doesn’t quite make it to “happily ever after,” but that makes you believe that “happily ever after” will come.