Written by: Hannah Tran | May 6th, 2020
Driveways (Andrew Ahn, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
In the follow-up to his 2016 film Spa Night, Andrew Ahn is back and more than equipped to deliver yet another moving portrait of modern American life and the feelings of otherness that reside within it. For his latest film, Driveways, is about a family who seems much like any other but also entirely different than those around them. As Kathy and her son Cody go to clean out her recently passed sister’s house only to discover that her sister was living as a hoarder, Driveways examines the ways that we often cling to loneliness and finds that there are many elements of one’s life that largely pass away incommunicable. But through a newfound relationship between Cody and an aging veteran neighbor next door, Driveways makes an attempt to communicate those very things. And it does a great job in the process.
Driveways is a film that is nearly as quiet as its main character. Yet, it also manages to see the everyday absurdity of suburban life in a way that feels internally in tune with Cody’s more sensitive perspective. While the dialogue on occasion seems forced, the screenplay as a whole creates a freeness in its vast amount of breathing room, and invites the audience to draw their own conclusions regarding what the story is meant to be about. Combined with subtle direction from Ahn, Driveways mixes adequate handfuls of sorrow and charm to create a nuanced commentary on the experiences of isolation, burgeoning gender dysphoria, and the pressure to fulfill cultural expectations.
Spearheading this charge is a trio of powerhouse performances from Lucas Jaye as Cody, Hong Chau (Downsizing) as Kathy and Brian Dennehy (Knight of Cups) as their neighbor Del. Although I wished it had more of a grasp on who, out of Kathy and Cody, it wanted to be its protagonist, the chemistry and specificity of the relationship between these two characters was undeniably natural and unusually tender. The material is also a pitch-perfect send off to the late, great Dennehy, whose rendition of Del is layered with emotional complexity and finely apparent feelings of regret. And the relationship between him and Cody truly understands the simple commonalities that someone like Cody and someone like Del are able to share despite the decades that rest between them.
As Kathy cleans the house of a sister she is beginning to realize she hardly knew, Driveways explores the painful experiences of regret and loneliness brought on by our human inability to be exactly what we would like to be for other people when they need it. Through the unlikely connection of Cody and Del, however, this film seeks to allow its characters the space to express these things to one another and learn from each other in the process. Driveways proves that the process of learning about someone is never-ending, even in death. And through opening ourselves up to others while still alive, we might just be able to discover new things about them and ourselves. What a fulfilling tale of connection in a time such as this.