Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Beautifully acted all round, Driveways is a small film with a big heart." | Photo: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The first time Del (Brian Dennehy) sees Cody (Lucas Jaye), it looks like there’s going to be trouble. An elderly man enjoying the quiet of his porch on a sunny afternoon, he’s not pleased to see a strange kid on his lawn and he abruptly makes that known. Latterly we will learn that the kid’s ethnicity may explain some of his aggravation. Cody is Korean American, Del a veteran of the Korean War. The latter remembers his manners well enough when Cody’s mother Kathy (Hong Chau, best known for her work in Downsizing) introduces herself and apologises for the boy’s behaviour, but he’s guarded.

Often the most beautiful flowers bloom just after the thaw.

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Kathy has temporarily moved into the area, with Cody in tow, to clean out the house previously occupied by her sister April (who has died) so that it can be sold. She didn’t know that April had become a hoarder; even the real estate agent is startled by how much work there is to do. It’s a small, predominantly white neighbourhood and one can see why the sister might have become isolated there, but Kathy is not the type to retreat from her problems. She’s firm with Cody’s father when discussing child support on the phone and she’s firm with a racist neighbour (Christine Ebersole), yet she gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, pushing them to find the best in themselves. Whilst she’s working, Cody tries to find ways to entertain himself, and that inevitably involves more interactions with Del. But something changes. Perhaps it’s because of his strained relationship with his daughter, who lives elsewhere, that the old man decides to seize the opportunity to do better this time and to take Cody under his wing.

A gentle character-based drama of the sort that’s rare in cinemas these days, Driveways celebrates second chances and the magic that can happen when people risk reaching out to one another in good faith. Del is, perhaps, alert to things about Cody that his harried mother has missed – things that he missed, or misunderstood, when he was an inexperienced parent. Cody is a sensitive kid. Put him under too much stress and he throws up, which doesn’t endear him to most adults. He’s different from other kids in a way he may not yet understand. Helping him to grow up safely, true to that, gives Del a chance of redemption.

Beautifully acted all round, Driveways is a small film with a big heart. It takes a realistic view of the world – not everything works out the way that its protagonists wish it would and not everybody proves worthy of trust – but it’s a quiet reminder of the joy that can be found in unexpected places.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2020
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Eight-year-old Cody is spending the summer in an unfamiliar setting with his mom Kathy. Though he can’t relate to the neighbourhood kids, things take an unexpected turn when he develops an unusual friendship with grouchy old Del from next door.
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Director: Andrew Ahn

Writer: Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen

Starring: Jack Caleb, Stan Carp, Hong Chau, Jennifer Delora, Brian Dennehy, James DiGiacomo, Sophia DiStefano, Christine Ebersole, Lucas Jaye, Samantha Jones, Anastasia Veronica Lee, Raymond Lee, Fernando Mateo Jr., Robyn Payne, Wayne Pyle

Year: 2019

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: US

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