“Driveways” (2019 production, 2020 release). Cast: Lucas Jaye, Hong Chau, Brian Dennehy, Christine Ebersole, Jerry Adler, Stan Carp, Bill Buell, Sophia DiStefano, Jeter Rivera, Jack Caleb, James DiGiacomo, Robyn Payne, Samantha Jones, Fernando Mateo Jr. Director: Andrew Ahn. Screenplay: Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen. Web site. Trailer.
When we’re stuck in a rut, it feels like change will never come. In severe cases, it’s as if we’re at the bottom of a deep pit from which escape is unimaginable. But circumstances need not remain that way, and making adjustments doesn’t have to be traumatic – provided we give ourselves permission to allow it. Such is the challenge brought up for review in the gentle domestic drama, “Driveways.”
When the older sister of middle-aged single mother Kathy (Hong Chau) passes away, she’s forced into traveling out of town with her eight-year-old son, Cody (Lucas Jaye), to clear out her sibling’s home to get it ready for sale. The two sisters haven’t been close since childhood, so Kathy knows little about the adult sibling she hasn’t seen in years. Consequently, taking on such a task for a virtual stranger is not something she’s especially looking forward to. And that dread becomes all the more onerous when she discovers that her sister April was a pathological hoarder. Suddenly the undertaking becomes far more burdensome than Kathy ever imagined. However, as the heir to April’s estate – and her only living immediate family member – Kathy dutifully but reluctantly launches into what seems like an overwhelming venture.
As taxing as this task may appear, though, cleaning out April’s home is not the only challenge Kathy faces. She must also tend to Cody’s fragile emotional state. The sensitive, lonely youngster is growing up without a father and has few friends, and, now that he’s indefinitely living in a new town where he knows no one, he feels even more isolated. That situation becomes even more apparent when his mom informs him that they have to move into Aunt April’s house because their motel is quickly becoming too expensive for a long-term stay. Kathy’s and Cody’s circumstances haven’t been particularly encouraging for some time, and their future is beginning to look increasingly uncertain – and ever more bleak.
Not all is lost, though. In short order, Cody meets his late aunt’s neighbor, Del (Brian Dennehy), a kindly, widowed Korean War veteran. Even though Del has a few buddies (Jerry Adler, Stan Carp, Bill Buell) with whom he plays bingo at the local VFW post, he, too, is alone much of the time. His only other relative, his daughter, Lisa (Samantha Jones), lives across the country and rarely visits, so he welcomes the company afforded by the new arrivals. Del is especially taken with Cody, who helps the aging senior feel young at heart. Cody, in turn, enjoys having a grandfatherly figure in his life, the kind of positive, supportive male role model who has long been absent from his day-to-day routine. And, even though the neighborhood is home to peers closer in age to Cody (Sophia DiStefano, Jeter Rivera, Jack Caleb, James DiGiacomo), he still seems to prefer the company of someone who understands him, appreciates his presence and willingly helps to guide him on the ways of the road of life in a manner that his contemporaries are incapable of doing.
Kathy benefits from Del’s presence, too. In addition to having someone who can help her raise her son, she learns to begin trusting people again, something she obviously hasn’t been able to do for a long time (at least since the time she was left a single mother with no family support). She’s almost shocked at the kindness offered by strangers like Del and her socially awkward but well-meaning neighbor, Linda (Christine Ebersole). But, when she can see that their gestures are genuine and don’t have agendas tied up with them, she learns to let her guard down and graciously accept their help. Before long, this new neighborhood in which she finds herself begins to feel like a home, a startlingly welcome development if there ever were one.
Thus begins a warm, gentle story of friendship and connection that comes at a time when it’s least expected yet most needed. The premise here is a simple one, yet it’s astounding how it seems so incredibly foreign – not only to the characters in the film, but likely in the minds of many of the picture’s viewers. It’s sad that we’ve reached a point where something once considered the norm has become an almost inconceivable concept to many of us (even more so in the age of quarantining and social distancing). In that regard, then, this could be just the kind of story we need these days to help reacquaint us with, and to reaffirm, the merits of this kind of neighborly fellowship, a reminder that could prove valuable once we emerge from our lockdown cocoons and rejoin the world of the living (whenever that happens).
Of course, if we want that to happen, we must work at cultivating it, to intentionally create it for ourselves as the foundation of our existence. And that’s something attainable through the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we shape the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. If we indeed wish to live in a world where such qualities are commonplace and attainable, we must forge and adhere to notions rooted in those principles, backed by the metaphysical resources that make them tangibly achievable. In short, we must embrace the power of the possible to see it realized.
Kathy, Cody and Del all seem to have wanted this for some time, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t allow themselves to believe in its veracity or attainability. However, as their circumstances changed, so, too, did their perspectives and the beliefs underlying them. Even if they never heard of conscious creation or what it makes possible, on some level they must have tapped into its principles and fostered changes in line with them, regardless of whether or not they were consciously aware of doing so at the time. And, before they knew it, they found themselves in the midst of what they had been seeking for quite a while. From all appearances, it doesn’t appear they object to the changes, either.
Invoking change can be a daunting prospect, and that fear in itself can be enough to keep it from happening. The same is true for doubt and contradiction, which arguably could be said to have played roles to lesser degrees here. However, by failing to address these hindrances, especially in terms of how they impact the effectiveness of our conscious creation efforts, we’ll never achieve any kind of meaningful change. Kathy, for example, truly dreads having to take on the task of clearing out her sister’s home, but, if it weren’t for addressing that obligation, she, Cody and Del never would have been able to reap any of the benefits associated with having assumed that responsibility. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
By overcoming the limitations that hold us back – no matter what cause they’re rooted in – we can achieve great things for ourselves, and the experience of the three principals in this film bears this out. They provide us with an excellent example to draw from in seeking to bring about meaningful change in our own lives. We’d be wise to pay attention.
This gentle, touching story exudes warmth, growing ever stronger as the picture progresses. Director Andrew Ahn’s latest effectively illustrates how to fill a huge void in our lives without succumbing to exercises in schmaltz or obvious manipulation. Though some of the picture’s themes are familiar, they’re often handled in unconventional ways and always addressed with deft skill and subtlety. There are a few story elements that could have used a little further development, and the ending – though effective – seems to come about somewhat abruptly. However, these minor shortcomings aside, “Driveways” is a genuine pleasure, especially for its performances, most notably that of Dennehy in one of his last roles, a virtual love letter to his fans. This fine offering is most worthy of its two 2019 Independent Spirit Award nominations for best first screenplay and best female lead (Chau). The picture is now available for streaming online and on cable TV.
There are times when the world feels like a terrible, scary, uncaring place whose trials and tribulations can seem relentless. But, just as easily as it got that way, it can be transformed to something more preferable as long as we can envision and are willing to enable the possibility. As this film illustrates, if a lonely little boy can accomplish such a change, it should be a snap for those of us who have more worldly experience and an ability to imagine alternatives. And it just may be possible that the solution is as close as our own driveway.
Copyright © 2020-2021, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.