Understated but emotional drama from Spa Night director Andrew Ahn, centred on an elegant cross-generational friendship that forms between a Korean War veteran and a Korean-American boy

Film Review by Adam Stafford | 03 Mar 2020
  • Driveway
Film title: Driveways
Director: Andrew Ahn
Starring: Brian Dennehy, Hong Chau, Lucas Jaye

It’s summer somewhere in Upstate New York. Korean-American Kathy (Chau) and her introverted son Cody (Jaye) arrive at her recently deceased sister’s house, intending to take a few days to clear out the property, settle the bills and put it on the market. Instead, she finds her reclusive sibling’s home is packed to the ceiling with clutter, no electricity and an unbearable smell emanating from the bathroom. With help from a laconic elderly war veteran neighbour, Del (a career-best from Brian Dennehy), Kathy eventually manages to make progress on the house while both Del and Cody form an elegant cross-generational friendship.

Andrew Ahn follows his critically acclaimed indie debut Spa Night with this gentle, impeccably acted observational drama with reverberations of Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me and Lynch’s The Straight Story. What the simple story lacks in dramatic dynamism it makes up for in emotional brevity and a focus on the everyday minutiae of human connectedness.

Chau and newcomer Jaye give fine and restrained performances as mother and son, but the film belongs to Dennehy as the lonely old widow, who harbours regrets about the conservative upbringing of his gay daughter in small-town America. In fact, several very subtle political connections are made between the ambiguity of Cody’s LGBQT future and the obvious but unspoken link between Del’s past in the Korean War and Kathy’s ethnicity. But mainly this is an understated gem that preaches love thy neighbour with not a cynical bone to bear.

Driveways screens at Glasgow Film Festival, Thu 5 Mar, 8.45pm & Fri 6 Mar, 4pm, Cineworld