Driving Madeleine is an endearing, very human French film with a dark undercurrent starring Line Renaud and Dany Boon, directed by Christian Carion.
This Woman's Lifeby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
White-haired Madeleine (veteran French national treasure Line Renaud) may be 92, as she tells her grumpy taxi driver Charles (comedian Dany Boon). but as we discover shockingly, she is not the dear little old lady she appears to be.
Today is her last day of freedom before her frailty means she reluctantly has to leave her home for the last time to enter a nursing home. But she’s clearly in no hurry to get there and she uses the prolonged taxi ride on her way to the other side of Paris to revisit places in the capital that had meant a lot to her. While the car travels, in flashbacks, she recounts her life story to driver Charles, and it is not the story you might have expected. It’s dark and shocking. Young Madeleine is played in those flashbacks by rising star Alice Isaaz.
Driver Charles is a harassed family man, short of money, sick of driving and also talking. Yet Madeleine’s amazing life story and her positivity engages him and draws them together, like a real grandmother and grandson.
Boon and Renaud definitely have visible chemistry together. They have worked together before, when Boon directed Renaud in 2018’s Family is Family (La Ch’tite Famille).
Driver and passenger car journeys have become a film sub-genre – see Drive My Car and Night on Earth. The car becomes a confessional and yet, in its intimate space, two unlikely characters bond symbolised by the passenger moving from back to front seat.
Christian Carion’s Driving Madeleine is a humane, life-affirming film. It’s not sentimental though it may make your tears flow. Underneath, it’s a scathing comment on changing attitudes over the decades to domestic violence. It’s a gem.
Driving Madeleine is released on 17 November 2023 in the UK.
“Heartwarmer that gets its fuel from its winning central double act”
“Night On Earth meets Driving Miss Daisy” – Total Film
“The little gem of a movie set inside a Paris taxi” – Sydney Morning Herald – 4 stars
“Compelling journey” – Stuff.co.nz– 4 stars