A Hidden Past is Revealed in 'Driving Madeline'

 

Last updated 5/2/2024 at 6:25pm | View PDF

"Driving Madeline" stars French actors Line Renaud and Dany Boon.

A seemingly simple taxi ride across Paris evolves into a profound meditation on the realities of the driver and his fare, a 92-year-old woman whose warmth belies her shocking past.

Charles (Dany Boon) is a taxi driver in Paris, and he is having a very bad day. Enter Madeleine (Line Renaud), an immaculately groomed nonagenarian, who informs Charles that the trip today will not be a direct one.

She is moving into a nursing home and would like to make some stops along the way, predicting that this might be her last car ride through the city. Their ride takes them through the momentous locations of her life and their brief friendship deepens as Madeleine listens to Charles confess his own worries.

Boon, an actor best known for his comedic work, creates a dramatic portrait of a frustrated man facing a personal crisis of epic proportions. His darker, sharper edges allow Renaud to shine as the pure shimmering light that is Madeleine.

Domestic Violence

The young Madeleine is a victim of domestic violence at a time when it was never mentioned or even thought about.

In one of the scenes on a bridge, Line tells Dany, "The fifties weren't like today."

"At that time, which is not that long ago, women had to get their husbands' permission to work or have access to money," said director Christian Carion. "I kept that in mind when I was reading the script.

"Not to go back over the past, but we have to remember where we've come from," he continued. "Equality, reproductive rights and rising awareness of domestic violence are yardsticks of how far we've come, but also of how far we have to go."

The main characters' feelings for each other are obvious in "Driving Madeleine." The film sometimes makes people smile, but it's also very moving.

"It's a lovely drama and a really touching story: an old woman looking back at her life before moving into a nursing home meets a grumpy cab driver," said Boon. "The fact that Line and I know each other so well allowed us to give each other plenty of space and listen to each other. The script about the final chapter of this woman's life is deeply moving: I cried when I read it."

"I don't blame you," said Renaud. "It's a great story: two strangers get to know each other during the ride from Madeleine's home in the suburbs to a nursing home a dozen miles away."

"Madeleine's character gives me an almost philosophical lesson on life." said Boon. "Charles, the cab driver I play, is overwhelmed by his money and relationship problems at first. He agrees to pick up Madeleine mainly because it's a long distance ride and it will be a beautiful one. While driving around and confiding in each other, Madeleine opens his eyes and heart along the way."

"Whenever I go back to where I came from in the North of France, I walk past my grandmother's cafe," said Renaud. "That's where I grew up. Today, it's a beauty parlor. I always stop in front of it and talk to people there. Then, I go to see the little one-story working-class brick house in the middle of the street where I used to live."

"I also go back to see my small red brick house with a tiny garden behind it. It's such a tiny place," said Boon. "To be honest, I think it's nice to go back but I don't really miss it."

"Neither do I," replied Renaud. "I'm not one to dwell on the past, but going back to my childhood home, where my roots are, well that touches me and I think it's important. You should never forget where you came from. That keeps your head on your shoulders."

Madeleine

"I think she's the most beautiful character I've ever played," said Renaud. "She's also the one that resembles me the most. You know, this year I'll be 94, the same age as Madeleine, but that's not all we have in common.

"Like her, I've gone through some hard things in my life. I grew up around women like her in my family. Madeleine is my mother, my grandmother and even my great-grandmother. I see them in my character's tormented story. My great-grandmother and my grandmother were victims of domestic violence but they, too, stayed strong.

"Their life stories are what gave me the strength to live my life and fight my battles," she continued. "Today, when I see all these feminist movements bearing witness, daring to speak out and making demands, I say to myself thank goodness times have changed, even if there's still a long way to go."

"Madeleine's story starts just after the war, but the movie follows her into the 1960s." said Boon. "Women didn't get the right to vote until 1948, but for a long time afterwards they had no financial freedom without their husbands' approval, not to mention the right to abortion, which wasn't legal until the mid-1970s."

"I know about that personally because I got pregnant when I was 17, before abortion became legal," said Renaud. "I couldn't keep the baby and had to have a backstreet abortion.

"But there are also joyful aspects in Madeleine's life. American soldiers, for example. I, too, remember dancing with the GIs who had just liberated France.

"Madeleine has character," added Renaud. "She likes to have fun. She's a bit tough and I can relate to that as well."

Charles, the Cab Driver

"Charles serves as a mirror to reflect Madeleine's whole life going by," said Boon. "This old woman who gets into the cab is living in a suspended moment, she's almost already outside of life looking in.

"When she leaves her pretty house to go live in a nursing home, she accepts that she's finite. She looks back at her past with calm and humanity and a lot of spontaneity.

"In contrast, Charles struggles with life," he continued. "At first, he's shut off from everything around him, and sees the glass half empty. Madeleine helps him find who he really is. Charles takes Madeleine to the end of her story."

"Watching Madeline" is currently showing on several cable networks.

 

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