Driving Madeleine is one of those small films that takes you by surprise. So no spoilers here! The main characters are Charles (Dany Boon), a taxi driver obsessed with his deepening debt problems, and his passenger Madeleine (Line Renaud), a 92-year old woman on her way to assistant living. Charles accepts the fare, knowing that it will be a long and lucrative ride, but he is not prepared to be drawn into the life of the nonagenarian in the back seat. For Madeleine it’s a drive through Paris and trip down memory lane, not all of it beautiful.
As the ride begins, Charles is in no mood to listen to Madeleine as she narrates the ride with stories of her younger life, while asking him to make detours so she can see old neighborhoods one last time. Her life story is told in flashbacks hitting the highlights but with some shocking twists. As he listens to her story, Charles softens to the old lady and begins to see his own life in a different light. And somewhat predictably by the end, the two are no strangers to one another.
In the hands of another director, and with a couple of different actors, Driving Madeleine could easily have sunken into sentimentality. But the chemistry between Boon and Renaud is warm and authentic, thanks in part to a real off-screen friendship they’ve shared over many years. Director Christian Carion also previously worked with Boon on his Oscar nominated film Joyeux Noël. And for those of us who love Paris (who doesn’t?), it is a beautiful ride all the way across the city with a few stops in some of its lovely neighborhoods. You might want to bring a tissue or two along when you see it.
In theaters now. And put it on your streaming list if it isn’t in your area.