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Driving Lessons

Harold and Maude Revisited?

Growing up is hard to do. Especially when your mom is a controlling bitch and your father is a total wimp. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it and sometimes you have to do something about it. In many instances your friends have an influence in your taking action, other times it's a mentor - someone who shows you that life can be different from how you know it to be.

Meet Ben (Rupert Grint). He's awkward, sulky repressive -- basically the same character he plays in the Harry Potter books but with more nuance and depth. But he's a good kid. The kind of child parents dream about. While most other people his age are drinking themselves silly, making out with as many people as possible or going on adventures, he's spending his summer holidays helping his controlling, fervently devout mother Laura (Laura Linney sporting a British accent that sounds like a voice recording) with her various charitable church-related causes.

When Ben's mother suggests he get a part-time job so that he can help out one of her pet projects, a strange old man who ran over his wife who his mother is trying to "rehabilitate", he turns to the church classifieds where he finds a listing from an aging actress looking for some part-time help. He applies but doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.

The actress, Evie (Julie Walters), is quite eccentric. And demanding. And just a little bit crazy. Basically everything which Ben is not. She manipulates and harasses Ben into doing any number of things -- like taking a spontaneous road-trip to Scotland, for example -- that he would never have imagined doing in his sheltered and controlled environment.

Written and directed by Jeremy Brock (who also wrote The Last King of Scotland ), Driving Lessons is a tender coming of age movie that is less funny than the studios' marketing team will have you believe and more dramatic and poignant than they are letting on. Scenes with Ben's quiet, passive vicar father Robert (Nicholas Farrell) are particularly moving. The movie would have been more enjoyable were Evie less grating. However, she tones it down towards the end and redeems the worth of her character. After all, she's the one that saves Ben from himself. Someone had to do it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars