Driving Madeleine (2022)

November 13th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri; Christian Carion | Cast | Dany Boon, Line Renaud, Julie Delarme | French, Drama

Lacking the emotional punch of the Bruce Beresford’s 1989 hit Driving Miss Daisy this romanticised French version sees an elderly woman reflect on her checkered life to a down-on-his-luck taxi driver.

On the face of it, life has dealt Madeleine (Renaud) and Charles (Boon) a pretty bad hand. But the difference is their perception of things, according to the spry but cantankerous 92-year old. Time and the wisdom of age has softened Madeleine’s outlook lending a philosophical spin on her twilight years in a care home. Dany Boon’s Charles, on the other hand, is still in his prime but with money worries putting a strain on his marriage to Carine (Julie Delarme).

After an upbeat sortie in down-town Paris the film goes for darker territory without really creating a relatable backstory for Madeleine’s turbulent relationship with ex-husband Ray (Laheurte). Christin Carion and his writer Cyril Rely plunge us headlong into vivid flashbacks of her troubled postwar love life opting for sensationalism in graphic scenes of sexual and emotional abuse that fail to generate our sympathy. We feel nothing for these two or their little boy Mathieu (Hardriel Roure) despite the grim picture of a marriage that goes from bad to worse, with Ray ending up in prison and ruining Madeleine’s life. And now sixty years later all she has to look forward to is a grim nursing home. 

A rousing almost epic score accompanies the melodramatic revelations as Carion attempts to imbue the film with a dramatic weight that should really have come from the writing rather than the musical prompts, and this leaves the audience disaffected despite Renaud and Boon’s best efforts to move us.

Hearing Madeleine pour out her woes has a therapeutic affect on the gruff but soft-hearted Charles who realises he hasn’t done so badly so far compared to his long-suffering ‘fare’. Suitably chastened by listening to Madeleine’s problems he makes a furtive phone call to his wife to try and patch up their differences. Ray then offers Madeleine lunch which leads to a taxi trip round Paris and this joyride is the only highlight in a rather glib affair with its predictable crowd-pleasing ending. MT . 



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