The definition of a small but perfectly formed gem, the gracefully understated Driveways centres on a young Asian boy who develops a precious friendship with the lonely war vet living next door, played memorably by the late Brian Dennehy.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2020
Korean-American director Andrew Ahn’s sophomore film follows single mother Kathy (Hong Chau) and her eight-year-old son Cody (Lucas Jaye) to an unfamiliar New York town to settle the estate of her deceased sister. Upon entering the house, Kathy discovers her sister’s hoarding compulsion and has to face the posthumous secrets between the estranged pair in an effort to find closure. Meanwhile, Cody sparks an unlikely connection with the next-door neighbour, widower and Korean War veteran Del (a quiet yet soulful Brian Dennehy, in one of his final film roles). Ahn’s careful direction draws three tender and nuanced performances from three guarded characters, crafting a credible portrait of real lives while their past lingers in the present.
Kathy and Cody’s Asian American identity bypasses the obvious conflicts of race in a refreshing turn, a choice in casting suggested by Ahn. Instead, the film chooses to focus on life’s familiar quotidian struggles and incremental victories to normalise the Asian American experience. As a result, Driveways captures the verisimilitude of ordinary life with its unobtrusive plot and eye for detail, creating a gentle meditation on connection through grief and change. — Nahyeon Lee
“Driveways… [is] the sort of modest, unassuming independent film that reminds you why, several decades and underground revolutions later, such things remain a viable alternative and a necessity… It’s mournful by nature, but it ain’t heavy – it’s so delicate, in fact, that you worry a slight breeze might knock it sideways. But the director’s… feature brims with so many tender mercies… that even its light touch leaves a mark…
And then there is Dennehy… Del is an old man, who’s grown unexpectedly fond of this young man in need of a grandfather figure. Stillness is the move here. Eventually, we arrive at the Monologue... When it ends with a perfect, miniature gesture of compassion, you feel as if you’ve just witnessed a minor-key miracle. You also feel the loss. There may be tears (on your end). And for a movie about isolation and the risk of reaching out, it’s a generous example of how nourishing a sense of connection really is.” — David Fear, Rolling Stone
About the Filmmaker
Andrew Ahn is a Korean-American filmmaker born and raised in Los Angeles. His first feature, Spa Night (2016), premiered at Sundance in the US Dramatic Competition. The film’s lead, Joe Seo, won a Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance. It went on to win the 2017 John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award.