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An absolutely lovely little film built around two of the best actors alive, “Learning to Drive” steers clear of the obvious, instead taking a series of small turns toward minor revelations.

We meet Wendy (Patricia Clarkson) as she jumps into a New York City cab after her fleeing husband (Jake Weber), who has just dumped her at a restaurant. She flails at him, crying, in the back seat as the quiet Sikh cabdriver, Darwan (Ben Kingsley), watches in the rear-view mirror. Eventually, the husband flees again, leaving Darwan to drive Wendy home.

When his shift ends, Darwan realizes Wendy’s left a package in the back seat. Taking a break from his day job as a driving instructor, he returns the package to her, and though he won’t accept a reward, she accepts his card. A lifelong New Yorker who never learned to drive — her husband handled the wheel — Wendy realizes it’s time to learn. And so, eventually, she calls Darwan.

Thus begins Wendy’s stop-and-start road to independence. At the same time, Darwan is entering into an arranged marriage with a woman from India (Sarita Choudhury) who, it turns out, is overwhelmed by America and her sudden pairing with a stranger. While Wendy is learning to strike out on her own, Darwan is learning how to make a relationship work.

Directed by Isabel Coixet (who worked with Kingsley and Clarkson in the exquisite “Elegy”) and written by Sarah Kernochan (“Nine 1/2 Weeks,” “Sommersby”), “Learning to Drive” is precisely the sort of adult-themed, intelligent and heartfelt film it wants to be, with Clarkson and Kingsley wonderfully on point. Pyrotechnics be damned, this is fine filmmaking that dares not to be loud.

tlong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Learning to Drive’

GRADE: B

Rated R for language and sexual content

Running time: 90 minutes

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