By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Ron Weasley and the trite coming-of-age story.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Characters lie; Evie encourages Ben to disobey his mother and is stubbornly obstinate; jokes about evangelical Christian faith; Ben's pushy/insecure mother pays dearly for her "sins" Ben's wimpish father remains wimpish.
Violence & Scariness
Car careening; car-related injury; discussion of a man running over his wife with his car (treated as comedy, but doesn't sound so funny).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Discussions of sex and a young man's sexual desire; slang for breasts ("t-ts"); adulterous affair; 16-year-old's crush leads to bad romantic poetry; boy's loss of virginity (kiss and embrace, some clothing removed, wakes in the morning with girl in bed); a fan tells Evie her TV soap is "big on the gay scene."
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At least two "f--ks" (pushing it for PG-13), plus other familiar profanity ("s--t," "hell," "ass"), British profanity ("bloody," "bugger"), and some other language ("queer," "you silly cow").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Evie drinks to the point of drunkenness and passing out; Ben drinks wine with Evie (he identifies himself as underage), then drinks liquor in a pub; some background smoke.
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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).
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Where to Watch
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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?
- In theaters: October 13, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: July 3, 2007
- Cast: Julie Walters, Laura Linney, Rupert Grint
- Director: Jeremy Brock
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language, sexual content and some thematic material.
- Last updated: December 25, 2022
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