Jane and Martin are a middle-aged couple who have hit some doldrums in their long-term marriage. In an attempt to spice things up and put some spark back into their relationship, they decide to get busy in their car one Saturday morning.
Of course, making the fantasy happen isn’t without its obstacles. It’s not comfortable, for one, and then there’s the possibility of being interrupted by the postman.
But the biggest wrinkle may actually be each other, as what was supposed to be a fun little tryst takes an unexpected turn.
Writer-director Phil Lowe’s sturdy short dramedy has a premise that’s ripe for creative exploration and depending on the sensibility of the team involved, it can skew towards both comedy and drama. Here, the film has it both ways, mining the awkwardness of the situation’s foibles that arise before it takes a surprisingly sincere and honest turn into the deep layers of history and feelings that have built up between the couple.
The film rests on a solid foundation of excellent writing, finding humor in puncturing youthful fantasies of sex with the mundane concerns and anxieties of middle age. Essentially a two-hander between two actors whose arc is carried via richly witty yet honest dialogue, it aided by briskly paced editing and a mellow, warm look that’s welcoming and inviting into this couple’s world.
Actors Janie Dee and James Lailey play the couple with a terrific rapport, with both a deep sense of familiarity and affection — and a few irritations and worries. They deliver the script’s zingers with aplomb, but always with a sense of the emotions underlying the quips, barbs and witticisms. As they delve into deeper emotional territory, the conversation between the pair gets a little thornier and messier, but with a shared sense of caring and honesty, they turn a corner… without even leaving the driveway.
“The Driving Seat” has a constrained scale in terms of its narrative and production scope that’s typical of two-handers, but it offers a rarity in film: a truly grown-up, humane portrait of mature love and marriage that balances both the frustrations of such a long-term bond with the compelling love and acceptance that comes from knowing someone so well.
Both Jane and Martin discover that it’s not just sex that brings the spark back, but a willingness to share, listen and be vulnerable and authentic. In other words, “The Driving Seat” is a lovely little vignette of intimacy in action — not just physical intimacy, but the emotional kind built on openness, honesty, humor and acceptance.