Director Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”) delivers a perfect film in “Driveways.” The film is a touching character study and an exploration of a friendship between two people: an eight-year-old boy and a man nearing his end. Spare, charming and warm-hearted, this minimally told story is an undeniable crowd pleaser.
Cody (Lucas Jaye) is a boy who feels he doesn’t quite fit in. Sudden noises upset him. His mother Kathy (Hong Chao) is under a lot of pressure, dealing with a recently deceased sister who had been a hoarder.
Kathy goes to the sister’s house hopefully to clean it and perhaps sell. Separated by a driveway is Del (Brian Dennehy) a big, aged man. Del firmly tells Cody to turn the garden hose the other way. Kathy is weary. She doesn’t want her son to talk to strangers. Worse, she feels the brick-faced man could have sprayed Cody with the hose.
One day Cody notices that Del has not moved for hours. Kathy gives him a ride to bingo.
When two aggressive neighbor kids (Jack Caleb and James DiGiocomo) want to wrestle with Cody in fun, he throws up in front of them and Del comforts the shaking kid, telling Cody about his life. Rather than play for melodrama, the film takes its time showing great restraint and is never heavy or ham-handed.
Christine Ebersole is a nosy, prejudiced neighbor. Rather than portray a cartoon, her performance is tangible and real, as is every role here.
Lucas Jaye is terrific and understated. Instead of giving Cody clear sentimental labels of a “struggling, nerd kid” his feelings are drawn delicately with hints of mystery along with a few opaque qualities which make Cody all the more authentic.
This is Brian Dennehy’s final film. He sadly passed just last week. Though was is a mournful event, this is a perfect curtain call for the seasoned actor. Dennehy has given a role of softness and subtlety.
In small, finely spun details, this amiable film unfolds like life, with gentle cheers and silences. Cody and Del are bonded because they are both spiritual “kids” together but this realization is given without maudlin events or any emotional agenda.
“Driveways” unfolds organically, a moment in time between two people who simply happen to make a connection. For the film to leave this pairing just so without any great clap of recognition or calamity is beautiful.
“Driveways” is part of the Tropic’s Virtual Cinematheque Series. Get tickets here and support the Tropic!
Write Ian at email@example.com