Driving Lessons

There’s a joke doing the rounds at the moment that goes: I just saw that Harry Potter film. A bit unrealistic if you ask me. I mean, a ginger kid, with two friends.

But last night I saw Driving Lessons on TV, starring Harry’s ginger mate Rupert Grint, and Julie Walters as ageing diva Dame Evie Walton, and blimey is that one unattractive redhead. Anyway….

Grint plays Ben, a kind, creative, seventeen year old boy who’s being slowly eaten alive by his pathological God Squad mother. He catches a break when he goes to work for Evie – a nutty Julie Walters in her Bo Beaumont persona – a failed and fading actress who spouts Shakespearean soliloquys for breakfast. Together they go camping and traipse to Edinburgh in a battered Citroen Safari and generally learn to break free of their assorted shackles.

It’s comedy and poignancy all crammed into one. Go on, you know you’ve seen this picture a million times before. It’s saved of course because though Bo Beaumont’s been around since Acorn Antiques days, Julie Walters is still bloody funny.

Incidentally, the place they go camping is actually a 540 acre forest called Burnham Beeches which has a heady movie history. It stood in for Sherwood Forest in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, an Irish woodland in The Crying Game, ancient generic England in First Knight and Ivanhoe, and even a more tropical setting in A Town Like Alice.

Mamma Mia!

Yes, Mamma Mia! is cheezy. Yes, it’s uneven and it’s unlikely and, if you look at it dispassionately, it’s all ridiculously silly. But the thing is, you simply cannot watch it dispassionately……

Blame those damn catchy tunes. Blame the fact that absolutely everyone seems to be having an absolute blast (you know it’s daft when career vamp Christine Baranski plays one of the more subdued characters). Blame Meryl Streep for completely stealing the show (how can you not just grin when you watch her sixty-something frame joyously bouncing on her big old bed, singing Dancing Queen at the top of her lungs?) Julie Walters is just dotty. Pierce Brosnan sings! And Greece has itself another glorious destination marketing product that’ll have the tourists clamouring.


A lot of the action was shot on the island of Skopelos – including the remarkable Agios Ioannis Prodromos Monastery that served as the wedding chapel (I thought for a while it had to be a set; I just hoped it really was an actual place). The beach at Kastani, a tiny bay on the west coast bay served as the film’s main external location site. Says the UK Telegraph

The producers built a beach bar and jetty but removed them when they left. Swimming offshore, you look back on a bay so symmetrical it might be an amphitheatre, and so extravagantly green that it might have been painted by a set hand.

The whole production may have been a breathy, high-paced shambles, but who cares? I’m packing as I type.