Driving Madeleine Image

Driving Madeleine

By Ryan Devir | February 28, 2024

You never know what someone is going through or what weight they are carrying. The most interesting characters one can experience are waiting to be met right outside the door. Sometimes, you walk into their lives; sometimes, they briefly come into yours and leave you changed forever. In co-writer/director Christian Carion’s drama Driving Madeleine, we learn life is short, but every moment is a chance to lift someone out of their struggle rather than drag them into yours.

A financially struggling taxi driver, Charles (Dany Boon), picks up a high-paying customer, Madeleine Keller (Line Renaud), who needs a ride to her new residence in a court-ordered nursing home. Totally focused on himself and his problems, the cold and seasoned driver, Charles, begins to break down his emotional walls to the charming 92-year-old Madeleine, who opens up about her entire life, revealing lost love, domestic abuse, and the 25 years she spent in prison. What should have been a simple pick-up and drop-off turns into a nearly 24-hour multi-stop, life-changing experience.

Driving Madeleine has all the elements of a great story. There is charm, humor, romance, drama, and even horror. Carion and co-writer Cyril Gely succeed in capturing the whole gamut of emotions in the human experience. These characters begin at a particular emotional stage and change by the end. That’s worth the price of admission right there. We’re too used to seeing characters begin stoic and strong and ending even stronger. Charles and Madeleine are flawed characters who need each other.

“…a simple pick-up and drop-off turns into …a life-changing experience…”

The acting is subdued, nothing over the top, but captures a realism not normally seen in the bigger-budget films. Boon is a taxi driver, and Line Renaud is a charming 92-year-old woman who struggles with the weight of a difficult life. An interview with Harrison Ford comes to mind. After his first role as a bellhop in Dead Heart on A Merry-Go-Round, he was told by a Hollywood executive that he would never be a big star because he came across too much as a bellhop. Ford rightfully rebutted that that was the point! This minimalist type of acting helps the viewer see the character, not an actor acting as a character.

As Driving Madeleine jumps back and forth between the titular character’s past and present, the relationship between her and her driver warms significantly, changing Charles’ demeanor. While it makes sense, Charles’ transformation can, at times, feel rushed. Thus, it gives the feel of a film adaptation of a novel, where you can tell there is more to the story that didn’t make the cut, but cinema can’t achieve the same character depth that a novel can.

As for what lands Madeleine in prison for 25 years, without giving spoilers, the words of Marsellus Wallace come to mind, “Imma get medieval on yo a*s.” I don’t remember Pulp Fiction being able to make me tear up, though. To be able to achieve both shock and heartwarming tears is something special. Plus, the film’s in French, which makes everything better. So sit back, get your Royale with Cheese, and enjoy the ride that is Driving Madeleine.

Driving Madeleine (2024)

Directed: Christian Carion

Written: Cyril Gely, Christian Carion

Starring: Line Renaud, Dany Boon, Alice Isaaz, Jérémie Laheurte, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Driving Madeleine Image

"…there is charm, humor, romance, drama, and even horror."

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