In movies, almost nothing can beat a simple story told well. Films that are full of awe-inducing imagery or complicated plot mechanics can work if done right, but the story can often get lost in the process. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is lay out a tale with interesting characters, fill the roles with good actors, and let the camera capture it all.
Driveways is that kind of film. Kathy (Hong Chau) and her son Cody (Lucas Jaye) have come to the small town of Hyde Park, New York to clean out the house of Kathy’s recently deceased sister. In their comings and goings to and from the house, they become friendly with Del (Brian Dennehy), a Korean War veteran who lives next door, with Cody especially taking a shine to him.
Over the course of a week or so, the three become close, with Del looking after Cody when Kathy needs to take care of other business. Other things happen — Kathy sets up the house to be sold; Linda (Christine Ebersole), another neighbor, pops in with her two grandsons; Del makes multiple trips to the local VFW to play bingo — but the film is not plot-heavy in the slightest.
Director Andrew Ahn and co-writers Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen know just the right buttons to push to make the story and characters connect. They offer some basic background on both Kathy and Del so that their respective histories inform their current personalities, but not so much that the story becomes about their pasts. The film is about the here-and-now, and how small connections can lead to something deeper.
It’s the small moments that resonate the most in the film. Whether it’s seeing Kathy’s face at just how much of a hoarder her sister had become, Cody throwing up in the face of peer pressure, or Del reminiscing about his wife and daughter, Ahn has a knack at making his characters endearing without turning the film into schmaltz.
It helps to have such great actors to fill those roles. Chau is an actor on the rise after earning a Golden Globe nomination for 2017’s Downsizing and impressing in HBO’s Watchmen. She is quietly strong here, giving her character depth with a minimum of effort. Dennehy has often been larger-than-life given his physical stature, but he makes Del highly approachable. His scenes with Jaye, who’s a great young actor, never fail to warm the heart. This is not the final film for the late actor, but it’s a worthy valedictory nonetheless.
There is nothing flashy about Driveways, and that’s why it works so well. It has a small, heartfelt story filled with winning characters that is as effective as any other movie at delivering big emotion.
Driveways is available through iTunes, Prime Video, GooglePlay, Microsoft, and satellite and cable on-demand providers.