“Driveways,” a 2019 film that was just released on-line early this month, is a small, quiet movie about loss in our lives, death, and how we make it through somehow, with help from connections, to family and friends.
The plot involves a mother, Cathy, and her young son, Cody, who travel to the home of Cathy’s recently-deceased, estranged sister, April, to clean out her house and sell it. While engaged in this project, the pair meet Dell, an older Korean War veteran who lives next door, and other neighbors.
The versatile stage and screen actor Brian Dennehy plays Dell, in what was his last film. Dennehy died on April 15, at the age of 81.
But if you’re accustomed to Dennehy’s heavy-handed approach to roles, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how beautifully he underplayed the role of Dell, a widowed man who lives alone and plays bingo at a VFW hall with his buddies.
“Driveways,” his last film, may also be one of his best.
Hong Chau, the 40-year old actress and writer who portrays Cathy, deftly captures the anguish and joys of being a single mother.
Perhaps a major arc of the story is seeing how the 8-year old Cody goes from wearing a sullen expression through much of the start of the film to a smile and a radiant face for the last twenty minutes or so. The actor portraying Cody, Lucas Jaye, has a beautiful, expressive face that seems meant for cinema.
The actors who play the mother and son, as well as the film’s director and cinematographer, are of Asian-American heritage. The first sequence of the film is filled with silence between the mother and her son, and a kind of silence permeates much of the rest of the film.
“Driveways” is like a quiet Asian poem, filled with simple moments…a haiku of a film.
The title, “Driveways,” can be interpreted various ways. Obviously, it can be seen as a reference to the literal driveways separating homes in the suburban-style neighborhood where April lived.
Or it can be seen in a more general sense, as the driveways of our lives, and these characters’ lives. For example, the drive that brought Cathy and Cody to April’s home, and a possible new start. Or the drive that Dell fondly remembers taking with his friend Eddie back in the day, hitchhiking across America.
While you’re watching the film, you may not think it is having much of an effect on you. But later, its images and themes may stay with you.
They did for me.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 4 possible)
Availability: on-line, through venues such as YouTube, for about $4 rental
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