Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Writer/director Henry Barrial approaches it with a confidence and consistency of vision that keeps it interesting throughout."

For most of his life, Leonard (Patrick Fabian) has focused everything on his one true love: music. Specifically, the vinyl record. He has a sizeable collection and at one point owned a record store, but the time they are a changin' and he has gradually been forced to accept that there isn't any money in it anymore. Somewhere along the way he has acquired a wife and children who also hold pieces of his heart, though his wife doesn't quite seem to know what it means that he's prepared to give up the last of his collection for her. We get the impression that they haven't been communicating well for some time. She's focused on her career; he leads a very different life, looking after their two young children. But when they find themselves in financial difficulties, he's obliged to find new paid work, and with his old skills well out of date, all he can do is sign up as a driver with an Uber-style ride share scheme.

It's through this new job that Leonard comes into contact with a new, younger version of the world he once knew. One of his first passengers talks to him about music and is keen to introduce him to new genres. This requires a leap of faith for a man who has spent many years confident of what he likes and dreaming of passing it on to other people. Their developing friendship opens him up to the wealth of different experiences that comes with his new job - some pleasant, some truly awful. At least half of his passengers are drunk or on drugs. More than one tries to seduce him; others get aggressive or become determined to tell him what to do with his life. Unsurprisingly, when things go wrong, his agency is unwilling to accept responsibility. Indeed, it's hard to get to speak to a human being. Leonard comes to feel like a passenger himself in a world run by technologies he doesn't really understand, but as he follows the lead of his younger passengers and begins to take this for granted, he finds an unexpected sense of freedom.

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Tackling big ideas about the human condition through a simple personal story and a stream of vignettes, DriverX could have been a disaster in less accomplished hands. Writer/director Henry Barrial approaches it with a confidence and consistency of vision that keeps it interesting throughout, gradually letting it settle into a rhythm not unlike that of a car journey undertaken in good company. He's greatly aided by Fabian, whose easygoing charisma makes him highly watchable yet who still convinces as an ordinary man getting to grips with middle age and trying to save his marriage. The perspective he offers allows us to enjoy the excesses of the city with a wry amusement that never begrudges the joy of those discovering them for the first time.

Sharply observed, warm and generous, this film is a delight from start to finish. There's no pretence that any one passenger is there to impart deep wisdom. What Patrick learns stems from the diversity of the people he meets, and it's a look at LA society that's delightfully free of reference to celebrity, unless you count Ukrainian rock bands looking for someone to show them a good time. Its sociopolitical awareness never detracts from its storytelling, and despite much of that story taking place inside the confines of a car, it's great cinema.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2018
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After finally giving up on his vinyl record business, a middle aged man tries to make ends meet by working for a ride share company.

Director: Henry Barrial

Writer: Henry Barrial

Starring: Patrick Fabian, Tanya Clarke, Desmin Borges

Year: 2017

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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