Madeleine, leaves small suburban to join a nursing home, on the other side of Paris. Charles, a taxi driver, comes to pick her and in no hurry to reach, she asks him to go through places of the capital, which have counted in her life.
I was swept away by this film; emotionally and cognitively. I can’t remember a time when I became so attached to characters in a film that I sobbed uncontrollably at the end, totally satisfied, happy, and heartbroken all at once. This is thanks to director and co-writer Christian Carion who tells the story of an older woman who calls for a cab as she directs the driver to make a few stops along the way to her final destination. This “older woman,” Madeleine, is portrayed by the incomparable Line Renaud and the driver, Charles, by Dany Boon. It’s a walk back in time filled with regrets and hopes as we drive forward in time to reveal both characters’ futures.
Charles is angry sitting behind the wheel of his Paris taxi-cab. We immediately understand he has money issues which seep into his home life. Dejected, he reluctantly takes a fare which requires him to drive across Paris, but it is this fare that will change his life forever. Madeleine confidently walks to the taxi as Charles arrives. His gruff exterior coated with armor, shields him from the sparkling blue eyes of this 92 year-old woman with a gift of gab. Asking him to make a stop along the way so that she can see her old stomping grounds, Madeleine begins to share her life’s story with Charles. Not to be broken, Charles reluctantly listens to her meandering memoir, but when she asks Charles to share a bit of himself, one layer at a time is peeled away to begin to create a meaningful friendship.
Madeleine asks for another detour and stop, and then another, until time has passed into the latter part of the day. Madeleine’s life has been shared with Charles and with us, as we flash back in time to an unexpected past. The twinkle in her eyes hasn’t faded even with the horrors she has experienced. A life lived richly in spite of the heartbreaking obstacles she endured.
We meet the younger version of herself played evocatively by Alice Isaaz whose heart leads her down the wrong paths. Her choices are now the pieces of the completed puzzle we now see in the back seat of the cab. Charles’s reactions and commitment to learning more about this stranger who has become a quick friend is simply heartwarming as he asks her the same questions we are uttering to the screen.
Boon and Renaud are magical together, taking their time to develop this on-screen relationship and including us in the journey. We understand Charles’s frustrations and his plight thanks to Boon’s authenticity in allowing his outer shell to be cracked and peeled away. It’s a simply sublime performance. Finding just the right balance to Charles’s crankiness is Renaud’s relaxed demeanor as she looks back on her life. She embodies the saying “with age comes wisdom.” There are regrets. There are tragedies. But there is a love that exudes from her as she recounts her life, and that cannot be denied not matter the situation. Her words are uttered with depth and complexity reminding us that everyone has a story and within this story is life’s ups and downs; some deeper than others. It’s a rich and Oscar-worthy performance as she captures our hearts, our souls, and our minds.
To think that the majority of the film took place inside a cab is mind-boggling. I was transported to Charles’ and Madeleine’s lives if only for a mere 95 minutes, but it was one of the most emotionally beautiful 95 minutes I can remember. It made me look at my life, my parents’ lives–now gone–and the stories they had but perhaps never told. It reminded me to be kind, to listen, and most importantly be resilient.