March 18, 2024


2022 / 90 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😹

In some ways, the Belgian film, Driving Madeleine, is what I first expected. In others, I was thrown for a loop by a few of the narrative turns. Either way, one of this disc’s bonus features should be a box of tissues. By the end of this thing, I was in tears (which doesn’t happen often). Hell, I was damn close to ugly crying.

The basic plot is fairly straightforward. Middle-aged, financially struggling cab driver Charles (Dany Boon) is hired to take a passenger to the other side of Paris…a lengthy distance, but a potentially lucrative fare. The customer is Madeleine (Line Renaud), a 92 year old woman being forced to move into a nursing home. In no real hurry, she requests a few stops at places she recalls from her past - including the old neighborhood - while opening up about the pivotal moments in her life. To his surprise, she’s also genuinely interested in his life.

Initially, Charles doesn’t care about her stories and is reluctant to open up to her. But as the journey continues, Madeleine is increasingly candid about her tumultuous past. Depicted through artfully conceived flashbacks, the love of her life was an American GI she met near the end of World War II, with whom she had a son. However, once he shipped back home, she never saw him again. She later ended up in an extremely abusive marriage with violent drunk Ray. Since abuse wasn’t grounds for divorce back then, her gruesome solution to the problem, while justifiable (and potentially audience pleasing), alters the trajectory of her life and relationship with her son.

Looks like Charles will be putting in some overtime cleaning ice cream off his upholstery.
During the cab ride, Charles and Madeleine form a friendship that’s frequently charming, funny and ultimately heartwarming. Through much of Driving Madeleine, I could kinda tell where the narrative was heading. But by the third act, I was so invested in these two characters that part of me was really happy it did play out as predicted, because the emotional payoff is huge. However, this isn’t just a French Driving Miss Daisy. There are jarring tonal shifts between their conversations in the car and the increasingly harrowing flashbacks, the latter of which contributing greatly to our admiration of Madeleine, as well as a few personal epiphanies experienced by Charles.

By the time the end credits rolled, I was emotionally exhausted. But it was the good kind of exhaustion. Driving Madeleine takes the viewer on an entertaining - often revealing - personal journey of two wonderfully realized characters. With a perceptive screenplay, fluid direction by Christian Carion and affecting performances (including Alice Isaaz as young Madeleine), this is the best disc I’ve reviewed so far this year.


INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR CHRISTIAN CARION - An enjoyable Zoom-type interview. Surprisingly, Carion reveals one of his inspirations while making this film was Steven Spieberg’s Duel.


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