Charles (Dany Boon) is a taxi driver who only has two points left on his license after incurring multiple violations. If Charles isn’t careful, another violation could cost him his full-time job as a driver. To make matters worse, Charles is also in debt which he’s struggling to repay. After getting his car washed, making various phone calls, and making a couple of trips in his Taxi, Charles receives a job request from the other side of Paris, promising a good journey and solid pay. He is hesitant at first but soon agrees to the job, and he’s informed he can instantly start the meter even though he hasn’t picked up the customer yet.
After a lengthy drive to the pickup point, Charles collects Madeleine (Line Renaud), an older lady who tells Charles she would like him to drive to a retirement village. However, Madeleine would like to make various stops along the way. Charles is somewhat surprised at Madeleine’s request but begins the journey with her in the back seat. Charles isn’t so chatty, but Madeleine starts to speak to him, sharing her reasons for needing a Taxi. Madeleine tells him about her suffering from a past accident, her age, and that she was born before the war began. As the two stop at various points, including her old neighbourhood where she grew up, Madeleine continues to speak with Charles. At first, Charles is more interested in doing the job and moving on, but Madeleine’s openness and lively attitude soon warms him on a deeper level. The two discover an unlikely friendship as they continue their journey, speaking about various matters they faced in their past and present days.
Driving Madeleine is best described as a drama film. For the most part, I carried a smile while viewing. Watching Madeleine be energetic and lively, even when Charles seems uninterested, is terrific. Charles has many dramatic moments- working overtime, trying to pay off debt, frustrating customers creating hurdles for him- as he faces many challenges in the present day. However, the drama aspect comes most into play as Madeleine reveals darker details about her past. We get to see Madeleine as a young woman (Alice Isaaz) and witness the challenges she faced as a wife and mother. The flashbacks were unexpected and enjoyable because they provided a deep look at her life and emotionally developed the character for viewers. At various times, the flashbacks were edited into a dream-like sequence. Witnessing Madeleine go through a time of abuse was dramatic and impacting to see. An especially touching and gripping moment is when we see an older Madeleine and a younger Madeleine holding each other’s hands as Madeleine reflects on her past sufferings. The visual style felt fitting.
The soundtrack by Philippe Rombi consists of jazz music and songs by well-known and familiar artists, which I enjoyed greatly. We learn early on that Madeleine enjoys jazz music, so it’s only fitting to have this as the soundtrack. The jazz soundtrack felt even more fitting when we see flashbacks of a younger Madeleine discovering a love for the first time.
Overall, this is a touching film with heartfelt moments and solid drama. It’s hard to watch this film and not be impacted by it somehow, and I enjoyed seeing an unlikely friendship form. I found myself smiling, especially given some of the characters’ liveliness and the energy and charm that comes with them. I was significantly impacted at other points, notably when we saw flashbacks tackling topics like abuse and toxic relationships. Ultimately, I felt this film took me on a dramatic journey, leaving me slightly teary-eyed and feeling good. In the end, Driving Madeleine is a sweet, adorable film.