Driving Madeleine [Une belle course] — Alliance

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

To make ends meet, Charles (Danny Boon) spends most of his life driving people around Paris in his taxi.  But even long hours six days a week aren’t enough to earn him the money he needs.  He’s also jaded and essentially switched off, uninterested in his customers’ stories, complaints, tirades, rudeness, self-promotion, and whatever else he’s heard day in and day out.  Now he’s offered a passenger on the other side of Paris.  Fuel is expensive, but the passenger has said that he can turn his meter on for the journey to pick her up.  Thus it is that Charles meets his fare, Madeleine (Line Renaud), and they take a ride together that will have profound effects on them both.

Driving Madeleine focuses chiefly on the life of one woman.  Madeleine lived through one of the darkest periods of human history and suffered evil on the most intimate scale.  Yet she is neither bitter, entitled, nor dour, having chosen instead to overcome life’s often unjust vicissitudes, to fight against them, and to embrace joy wherever she may find it.  And through her sharing she invites Charles to see his own life differently and to rediscover the soft kernel of his heart that has been buried beneath the weight of his cares.

Danny Boon as Charles embodies a typical care-worn taxi-driver with little to look forward to in his endlessly long days away from his wife and daughter.  But what is outstanding is Boon’s subtle and nuanced transformation as his character, Charles, gradually sees life through Madeleine’s eyes, his own eyes reflecting his re-engagement with life.

Line Renaud gives a superb performance as Madeleine, dignified yet a little naughty.  Inviting Charles into the reminiscences we see in flashbacks, Madeleine reveals more than Charles could have imagined true of this old lady.

Alice Isaaz compellingly plays the beautiful younger Madeleine, a woman imprisoned by circumstances and unfair laws.  Strong she may have been, but her fortitude, and actions, couldn’t prevail against a system that denied women their human rights.

A subtle, poignant, deeply personal film, Driving Madeleine is a story that anyone who has known first love, loss, disappointment, and the transcendent power of the human spirit will relate to.  Set against the fascinating backdrop of some of Paris’s famous landmarks as well as her back streets and suburbia, Driving Madeleine is a taxi ride you won’t regret taking.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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