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Driven to Distraction

Coming-of-age comedy Driving Lessons sees Rupert Grint graduate from Hogwarts in some style. Writer-director Jeremy Brock discusses the semi-autobiographical story and the talented Harry Potter alumnu...

Coming-of-age comedy Driving Lessons sees Rupert Grint graduate from Hogwarts in some style. Writer-director Jeremy Brock discusses the semi-autobiographical story and the talented Harry Potter alumnus.

The film follows the downtrodden seventeen year old Ben (Grint), whose devoutly Christian mother (Laura Linney) controls his every move. He begins a summer job assisting Evie (Julie Walters), a foul-mouthed, retired actress who encourages him to cut the apron strings and go on an unauthorised road-trip to Edinburgh. Evie is in fact based on a figure from director Brock’s own adolescence.

“I worked for Dame Peggy Ashcroft when I was younger, who was by then at the end of a marvellous career,” he remembers. “Similar to Julie’s character, she was an iconoclast and she was wonderful to me. At that stage I was a fabulously naive Vicar’s son.”

Brock is keen to point out that Ben’s monstrous and hypocritical mother, whose every decision seems to be informed by her religious outlook, is not entirely a reflection of his own adolescence.

“The moment you turn it into fiction, you alter the truth,” he observes. “The bare bones of it are true, in that my family life was difficult but the narrative I’ve created in this film is separate from my family life.”

It allows a freedom for Grint to embark on some outrageous adventures with Julie Walters, displaying a talent for deadpan comedy that counterpoints perfectly with Walter’s terrifically eccentric performance. Grint’s family, like Brock, saw it as an ideal opportunity to break from the stereotype.

“His family were sensible and savvy enough to see this as an opportunity to display another side to his talent,” Brock says of the casting. “The fact that he’s so fantastically natural as an actor and so used to the camera was a very big bonus.”

The film’s success hinges on Walters' chemistry with Grint and the actress assisted him greatly with one of her finest performances.

“She’s a fantastic combination of a brilliant machine, a master of the technique of acting and then everything on top of that, the emotional subtlety.” Brock says of Walters.

One other notable factor is Walters' colourful language, her dialogue being peppered with expletives. Coming from such an elegant and eloquent character, it lends great comedy and Brock is unapologetic for its use.

“I think it’s all about the context and, here, it reflects a level of theatricality that she has,” he says. “It’s one of the experiences that I had with actresses and something that I wanted to capture.”

The combination of great performances, a well constructed narrative and fantastic comedy dialogue will ensure that Driving Lessons gets the critical and commercial success that it deserves.

 

Driving Lessons is showing on 25 August (returns only), 26 August and 27 August (as part of Best of the Fest) at Cineworld.

 

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