Review by Camden Ferrell
Driveways is the second feature film of director Andrew Ahn. The movie had its premiere at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival and also played at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. While this movie isn’t the most well-paced or captivating, it still finds a lot of meaning in its subtlety and character development.
In this movie, a young boy named Cody and his mother, Kathy, spend the summer in a town in New York in order to clean out the house of his deceased aunt. As they work on getting the house ready for sale, Cody strikes up an unlikely friendship with Del, a retired veteran who lives next door. This premise is simple, and it doesn’t rely on any gimmicks or anything too flashy. It’s not the most interesting story in the world, but Ahn does a fairly decent job of using the limited plot to the best of his ability.
The script, written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, can often jump between mundane and intriguing. Some sections of the movie don’t feel like they contribute too much to the themes and character development, and they’re mostly forgettable. However, there are a fair amount of really interesting interactions and solemn moments that contribute significantly to the ultimate intention of the film.
The acting is the strongest aspect of the film. Lucas Jaye gives a strong performance as Cody. It’s a lot of pressure for a child actor to lead a movie, but Jaye does it with confidence, and he’s able to capture the insecurities and growth of the character very well. Hong Chau (Downsizing) also does a great job as Kathy. She is able to give a maternal performance that is interesting without undermining any other characters. Brian Dennehy (First Blood) gives a very strong performance as Del. He plays the role in a contemplative way that highlights the message and themes of the movie very well.
Ahn’s execution doesn’t always hit the mark, but there’s a lot of virtue to be found in its attempt. Even when the script occasionally hits a lull, Ahn tries his best to justify the scene, and this can be seen in the way he paces and blocks his actors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always compensate for the material, and these moments can create noticeable drags in the film.
The cinematography by Ki Jin Kim is surprisingly poignant. The film is framed very well, and there are some downright beautiful shots spread throughout that emphasize the emotion of scenes especially in the latter half of the film. These visuals pair nicely with the simple yet sometimes almost profound story, and it creates some really sweet and tender moments throughout.
One of the film’s main flaws is how much better its second half is. The first act of the film drags a lot, and it feels like it takes a sluggish pace towards its main character interaction. The relationship between Cody and Del is one of the film’s strongest aspects, but it’s one that isn’t highlighted nearly enough which is a shame since Del’s character had a lot of narrative potential.
Driveways doesn’t always captivate audiences, but it should be sufficient for those looking for a simple and meditative character drama. It features some great acting by its cast even if it can lack in other departments. This is an adequate albeit promising second feature from Ahn.
Driveways is available on VOD May 7.