The Movie Waffler New to VOD - DRIVING MADELEINE | The Movie Waffler


A 92-year-old woman bonds with a taxi driver over the course of a day in Paris.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Christian Carion

Starring: Line Renaud, Dany Boon, Alice Isaaz, Jérémie Laheurte, Gwendoline Hamon

Driving Madeleine poster

You can't beat the taxicab as a cinematic conceit in pursuance of character study. The restricted space of the cab interior, with dual participants separated by the semantic code of a glass partition, allows for intimately charged interaction, with shifting power dynamics inherent to the interface, too; the fare is the paymaster, but the driver at the wheel has ultimate agency. And then in terms of exteriors the glass windows of the cab become a proxy cinema screen, displaying the vistas of the city in montage succession. Finally, in either denotative or allegorical narrative terms, there is the inbuilt concept of a journey. Night on Earth, Collateral (I'm sure there are others) are films which utilise the taxicab as a Styxian vessel, traversing neon lit nights into darker underworlds, the liminal taxi driver as an, at times unwilling, Charon.

Driving Madeleine review

In Christian Carion's (with script support from Cyril Gély) rather lovely Driving Madeleine, however, the mise-en-scene is pretty Paris en journée, with hapless drive Charles (played by the ace named Dany Boon) hired to ferry about the titular Madeline (icon and all round great bunch of lads Line Renaud), a graceful woman of a certain age who is about to be moved into a nursing home across the city. The former is on his arse, with a stale marriage and a licence two points away from being taken away from him, while the latter has come to the end of the road after a life which has been marked by deeply dark events. Let's hope that sad sack Charles picks up a  few life lessons along the way from this increasingly formidable fare, eh?

Driving Madeleine review

There are no real surprises in the denouement of Driving Madeline, but what is perhaps unforeseen are the unpleasant specifics of Madeline's backstory. Slight first act spoilers follow... As Charles systematically takes Madeline to the places which have been significant in her life, through flashback she tells him her story. We cut to 1940s France, a fetishised Gallic mise-en-scene of amber lighting, thick smoke and even thicker breakfast coffee. The céfran harmony doesn't last long though, as it quickly transpires that Madeline (played in flashback by Alice Isaaz) is a victim of domestic abuse and is beaten by her husband (Jérémie Laheurte). Madeline details to Charles the transition from victim to survivor via the fittingly grotesque revenge she enacts upon Ray (who is a welder, and as Madeline employs one of his tools to fight back following a barbiturate imbued whisky, the ensuing crime invokes the glorious vindications of the female saviours of Scandi-Noir).

This first act climax is performed in the service of Madeline's son, who she needs to protect from his unhinged father. It is poignant irony then that when the case does go to court the events are not seen in Madeline's favour and she is at risk of further, ultimate separation from little Mathieu (sidenote - in 2020 there were 213,000 French women who were reported as victims of domestic abuse, a figure that had barely decreased over the preceding half decade: women are more at risk from someone they know than anyone else, perhaps because these perpetrators know how to cajole and manipulate to get away with it).

Driving Madeleine review

The harrowing plot which beats at the centre of Driving Madeline is complimented by the picturesque dignity of the framing narrative, in which, via its Before Sunrise meets Driving Miss Daisy structures, offers a bittersweet tale of redemption and acceptance. Early in the film, there is a pointed shot of the Notre Dame cathedral, which is still under reconstruction. It's a symbolic reminder that things do change, and that fortune is often outrageous, but there is always time and space to repair. A bromide as anodyne as  one of young Madeline's cocktails, perhaps, but one that is nonetheless true and reaffirming.

Driving Madeleine is on UK/ROI VOD from February 26th.

2023 movie reviews