Blog Directory CineVerse: A cozy film that asks you to pull in and stay awhile

A cozy film that asks you to pull in and stay awhile

Monday, March 8, 2021

Driveways, directed by Andrew Ahn, is a slice-of-life drama that examines deep questions and rich themes, despite its simple story and small cast of characters. Our CineVerse group took the scenic route while exploring this picture last week (to hear a recording of our group discussion, click here). Here’s what we surmised:

What took you by surprise about this film and left a memorable impression?

  • On paper, the movie’s premise, characters, and triangular relationships would appear to be overly simplistic and ripe for soapy melodrama – the kind of fare you would expect perhaps on the Lifetime channel. However, the film proves to be deep, reflective, universally resonant, and emotionally intelligent, despite its unsophisticated story.
  • Lesser filmmakers would have delved into unnecessary subplots and introduced greater conflict in an attempt to create a more compelling narrative.
    • For example, in the scene where Cody is asked by a neighbor boy to wrestle, we could have been given a scene depicting classic bullying and suffering by a timid child; the director could have chosen to have Cody’s father make an unexpected appearance at the house, causing consternation; we could have been shown a foreshadowing scene in which Del suffers a mild medical event, such as a fall or survivable heart attack.
    • But Driveways doesn’t need shoehorned tension, plot twists, romantic love angles, or dramatic character arcs to be effective.
  • The picture wisely avoids clich├ęs, weepy manipulative moments, precocious child characters, and contrived comic relief, instead choosing to let the film breathe and its characters emote organically.
  • Brian Dennehy gives one of the finest performances of his career – one that is nuanced, reserved, intrinsically honest, and free from verbose speechifying.
  • It’s refreshing to watch a film that doesn’t try to emotionally puppeteer us, cram in mass-appeal entertainment aspects, or tie up every loose end by the end of the story. It’s left to our imagination what happens to these three characters and if Cody and Kathy ever see Del again – which is not likely.

Themes found within Driveways

  • The pain and void of loneliness and isolation: Each major character – Kathy, Cody, and Del – lacks companionship and friendship. Collectively, they help fill the void for each other.
  • The challenge of fitting in: Cody can’t quite connect with kids in his new neighborhood, and Kathy has difficulty relating to some of her neighbors as well as strangers at a bar.
  • The power of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Del quietly and unassumingly offers help to his new next-door neighbors and steps in to salvage Cody’s birthday; Kathy offers Del a ride when he needs one and lets Del participate in her yard sale; Cody listens attentively to Del and treats him with respect and affection.
  • The specter of death and absence. Kathy’s sister has died, there is a dead cat in the house that Cody reverently buries, Del’s wife has passed on, and Del knows that he is in the late winter of his years. Likewise, Cody’s father is absent from his life.
  • Bonding through surrogacy. Del serves as a father/grandfather figure to Cody, Kathy serves as a daughter-like figure to Del, and Cody fills an important gap for Del – helping him better appreciate his life and rekindling deep memories.

Other films that spring to mind after watching Driveways

  • On Golden Pond
  • What They Had
  • The Florida Project
  • Gran Torino
  • St. Vincent
  • The Horse Whisperer

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