A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this coming-of-age story (which stars Rupert Grint, of Harry Potter fame) focuses largely on sexual awakening and insecurities. This involves the 17-year-old hero's mooning over a classmate, fretting over his mother's adulterous affair, and learning about the sexual interests of his employer, a retired actress. He ultimately loses his virginity to a college student (brief skin is visible). Several references (visual and verbal) to hitting women with cars. Some drinking and salty language, especially from Evie (a couple of "f--k"s, plus other profanity).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Early in DRIVING LESSONS, 17-year-old Ben (Rupert Grint) decides that he must declare his independence. He has good reason to want distance himself from his family: His demoralized father (Nicholas Farrell), a vicar at the local church, goes along with whatever his self-righteous wife, Laura (Laura Linney), wants. Ben is egged on by his new employer, retired stage actress Evie Walton (Julie Walters, who plays Mrs. Weasley to Grint's Ron in the Harry Potter franchise). Invited to give a reading at the Edinburgh Festival, Evie tricks Ben into driving her there, which means he has to disobey his mother, who's increasingly jealous of Evie. Meanwhile, Laura seeks her own outlets beyond her humdrum lover, Peter (Oliver Milburn), and stultifying husband.
Is it any good?
Evie is reportedly based on writer-director Jeremy Brock's experiences working for Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and this underwhelming film makes terrible fun of the former grand dame. Prone to reciting Shakespeare and urging Ben to explore his "creativity," Evie is equally adept at vulgarity. Her frustration is understandable: Once accustomed to a certain respect during her heyday, she's now relegated to performing for herself in her back yard. She's peculiar and sometimes alarming, but for Ben, her large house -- cluttered with books and papers and memorabilia from a seemingly exciting career -- is increasingly preferable to his own airless home.
Ben's "growing up" takes a most pedestrian form during his trip with Evie -- he learns to drive, of course, as he also takes responsibility for Evie (and, naturally, comes to appreciate her courage) and even finds a way to lose his virginity with Bryony (Michelle Duncan), the pretty, apparently very bored twenty-something woman who greets Evie in Edinburgh. On his return home from his road trip, Ben appears not to have learned a single "lesson." He rejoins his mother, taking his place on stage as a tree. The fact that he still needs saving -- after an entire movie's worth of instruction and rescue from assorted women -- suggests that Ben is well on his way to becoming his father after all.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Evie and Ben's friendship. How is it unconventional, and what does he learn from her? How does she encourage him to rebel against his mother, and how does the movie make this seem like a "good" choice? Is Ben's father an unappealing role model? Why? Would it be possible for Ben and his mother to have a sincere discussion about his expanding interests (in art and literature, for instance), or is she too self-centered to understand him?
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