There’s going to be no holiday fun for vicar’s son Ben (Harry Potter’s flame-haired Rupert Grint) in the North London suburbs. Just bible classes and helping out his domineering mother (Laura Linney) with her do-gooding Christian tasks, while hen-pecked Dad (Nicholas Farrell) keeps out of the way. Enter into Ben’s constrained life a very different matriarchal figure, the Hampstead-dwelling retired actress Evie (Julie Walters), an eccentric spinster who drinks, swears, and encourages the shy, poetry-scribbling teenager to follow the dictates of his heart.
Loosely based on writer-director Jeremy Brock’s own personal experiences of spending a vacation working for Dame Peggy Ashcroft, the blandly shot Driving Lessons steers a cosily predictable course, as clichéd as any ‘the summer that changed my life’ drama. Our mismatched duo, despite their lack of motoring licences, hit the road, calling in at the Edinburgh Festival where Ben implausibly gets to pop his cherry with a literary PR babe. Admittedly the OTT performances of Walters and Linney prove camply entertaining, making for a broadly enjoyable head-to head showdown at a nativity play.