Directed by: Andrew Ahn
Written by: Hannah Bos & Paul Thurteen
Starring: Hong Chau, Lucas Jaye, Jerry Adler, Robyn Payne, Christine Ebersole
What gets left behind when we perish says plenty about us, as it shows what we were upon our death. When I eventually die, people will find my movie collection and ascertain I enjoyed watching film as a hobby and passion. Driveways forces a woman and her son to rift through belongings with the passing of a family member and while it certainly had the opportunity to be cynical, it takes its subject matter and provides a warm hug of earnestness.
With the passing of her sister, Kathy (Hong Chau) and her nine-year-old son, Cody (Lucas Jaye) travel over to the now-abandoned house to clear and sell it as part of the estate. At this house, they see a behemoth of a task before them as Kathy’s sister hoarded items filling the house to the brim. As Kathy works to clear everything in preparation for putting it on the market, Cody begins to befriend the elderly next-door neighbor.
Drenched in sweetness and harboring nothing but goodwill for every person involved, Driveways side steps from cynicism and embraces human connection from people of different generations and backgrounds. It signifies how simple it can be to speak to others when prejudice does not come out onto the surface. This gets seen plainly through the connection between Cody and Del (Brian Dennehy). Their first interaction starts out with Cody messing with the hose in the driveway between the two homes. Del sits there with his military hat on the porch and looks on to see the young Asian boy. If life and most of storytelling history have indicated, this conversation would most likely start with the old man saying something grouchy and maybe with a bit of a racist flavoring on top of it all. Instead, it demonstrates how much of a bond can occur between two people at two different stages in their lives.
Del lives alone and it gets revealed that his wife has passed away some time ago. He lives his life eating the same foods and occasionally going to a Bingo game with his veteran buddies. He has consumed life for what it has provided for him while Cody very much sits at the other side of the spectrum. He has his whole life ahead of him with plenty to experience. These two are not bonded by shared experiences, background, or any other factor except for them both being human. They begin with kindness and this continues for their entire friendship. On several occasions, I felt the hammer would eventually drop and reveal something sinister but Driveways has no interest in going in that direction, which feels refreshing in a way. It defies what most stories and life has proven about these types of interactions.
The other major plot point centers on Kathy trying to rummage through all of her sister’s belongings in an effort to move forward in life. The story reveals she has not been in much communication with her deceased sister for quite a while but it can be insinuated, the house was left to Kathy as part of the bequeathal. Nothing gets specifically mentioned but it can be pieced together that this house was left to Kathy for a reason. As she goes through room after room of belongings, certain items bring back memories for her and cause some truly emotionally wrenching moments. For better or worse, all of the belongings left behind provide Kathy with the final glance of her sister and how she spent her last days on Earth. It proves to be quite the roller coaster emotionally.
Even with the established adult actors doing very well in their performances, Lucas Jaye stood out as Cody. Portraying this young character, he needed to display the qualities of a shy but emotionally intelligent boy that would not outstay his welcome. Instead, he became the shining light, who not only pushed the other adult characters around him in their own growth but also had his own personal battles to overcome. Many of the childlike situations he’s presented with offer simple solutions to any grown person, but having him experience it brings us back to when we were younger and had to have those awkward conversations with peers, including inviting them to a birthday party. Jaye warms the heart in capturing this youthfulness along with a degree of maturity to have conversations with older folks.
Going through this story, it felt like it would build to a large confrontational moment but it never arrives, which makes this less of a dramatization but a loving portrayal of connection between people whether it be with someone alive or another who has already passed. This approach allows Driveways to be its own little special film where we can believe in the power of humanity before prejudices get in the way. It does not show a utopia, by any means, as other characters show bits of prejudice ready to burst out but it remains restrained. This beautiful film shows humanity at its best.