Driving Madeleine Blu-ray Review: Driving Madame Daisy

Wait, haven’t we seen this movie before? Yes, the concept is similar to Driving Miss Daisy, with shades of Green Book and Taxi Driver thrown in. Yes, the plot is just as obvious as it appears, and turns out exactly as expected. And yet, in the caring hands of writer/director Christian Carion and stars Line Renaud and Dany Boon, the film is a joyous and heartwarming celebration of life guaranteed to play on your emotions.

Buy Driving Madeleine Blu-ray

Dany Boon stars as a gruff, poor taxi driver named Charles who is so wrapped up in his daily grind he’s missing out on life. When he gets a call to transport an elderly fare from her home to a nursing home, he begrudgingly accepts the out of the way gig. Enter Madeleine (Line Renaud), an immaculately put-together senior radiating warmth in spite of the depressing nature of her final taxi ride to obsolescence. 

Charles wants nothing to do with Madeleine’s conversation, eager to get rid of her and search for his next fare, but as she begins sharing her life story, he slowly comes to appreciate her fascinating tales. Rather than rely on Madeleine’s narration, Carion stages these past vignettes as reenactments, with Alice Isaaz co-starring as young Madeleine. The historical scenes include some shocking revelations that are made all the more visceral as they play out on screen, deepening our understanding of Madeleine’s unique character arc.

Boon is usually a comic actor, but he perfectly nails the complexity of the downtrodden cabbie with no overacting. Renaud is simply amazing, especially considering that, like her character, she is actually in her 90s. Boon and Renaud have spectacular rapport, exhibiting an easy familiarity as their characters bond. This is largely due to their prior work together, including a film in which Boon directed Renaud. Carion has also worked with both actors before, fostering a set where it’s clear that no egos were involved and only good vibes prevailed.

The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 5.1 DTS surround and 2.0 stereo soundtrack options. The epic scope highlights the beautifully lensed footage of familiar Parisian landmarks, as the taxi somehow travels a route that seems to pass by each and every tourist destination. Paris acts as an integral character in the film, as Madeleine travels the inner halls of the memory palace of her life while the associated physical landmarks pass by around her.

The Blu-ray includes an extensive interview in English with Carion where he discusses the production, including the amazing revelation that most of the film was shot on a soundstage, with 4K screens of Paris footage set up all around the taxi. The effect is perfectly seamless, to the point that I never would have known if I didn’t watch the bonus feature. 

Following a brief theatrical run, Driving Madeleine is available on Blu-ray on March 19th. Although the year is still young, the film is likely to end up as the feel-good film of the year, even as it pulls hard on your heartstrings. To watch is to understand and appreciate the ephemeral nature of life and the joys it can bring, as well as the possibility of forging a life-altering human connection out of the most unlikely of scenarios. Highly recommended.

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Steve Geise

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