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Driving Madeleine

A taxi ride across Paris can be one of life’s most romantic times, and so it is in Driving Madeleine, a French souffle about a titular 92-year-old (Line Renaud, a famous French singer 95 years old) being taken by court order after a fall to a rest home, perhaps a final journey. Driver Charles (Dany Boon) doesn’t realize it, but it is a transforming ride for him as well.

Madeleine, having no family but obvious means, requests along the way side trips to her past, both physical places along the way and memories that turn on love and heartbreak but have a salutary effect on both characters.

From stories of her first kiss during WWII, with Matt’s kisses like “honey and oranges,” to marriage abuse typical in the 1950’s, Madeleine remains positive about being alive and loved. Charles, at 46 almost like a grandson to Madeleine, parries with financial woes but also hymns of love for his daughter. His tales of woe are shared by most working-class blokes.

The lovely background of a road-trip movie by cinematographer Pierre Cottereau, juxtaposed with some searing memories of Madeleine’s younger self, comprise a delicate drama of life’s ups and downs, from which our protagonists find a solace in living every day. It almost seems writer-director Christian Carion wishes us to smell those roses despite the disappointments that our fates appoint.

I am critical of sentimental movies like this that rely heavily on flash backs, yet here they work successfully to help guide us through her robust Odyssey. Although Driving Madeleine could seem a bon-bon movie trip, it is not.

It is a serio-comic trip with two fascinating characters reliving their lives and better because of it. At a difficult time of year to find good movies, you will have found one as well as a tear or two for this delicate protagonist and an end of life that will toll for all of us in one way or another.

Driving Madeleine

Director: Christian Carion (My Son)

Screenplay: Cyril Gely (Chocolat)

Cast: Dany Boon (The Crime is Mine), Line Renaud (Let’s Dance)

Run Time: 1h 31m

Rating: NR

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR Movie Podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando