Welcome to Night 2 of coverage from the Calgary International Film Festival, Night 1 for me of programming because opening galas make me claustrophobic.
Andrew Ahn presents his brand new film “Driveways” that premiered earlier this year in Berlin. Written by Hannh Bos and Paul Thurteen, the New York based playwrights take their first crack at film with a beautiful, understated, and extremely personal script. Starring Hong Chau as Kathy, bringing a more subdued but energetic performance much different from what she did in “Downsizing”. Also featuring the great Brian Dennehy as neighbor Del, and newcomer Lucas Jaye as Kathy’s son Cody. Lucas Jaye is fantastic, with a very layered performance for a child actor.
The film begins with Kathy and her son emptying the house of her late sister, shockingly finding out she was a hoarder. This causes them to unexpectedly stay in small town America longer than expect, letting Cody forge some unlikely friendships. One thing that immediately stands out is Brian Dennehy plays a Korean War vet, but this isn’t going to be a story where he starts out racist and softens up when meeting a small Asian boy (Sorry Clint). Immediately they get along, it’s the neighborhood kids Cody has trouble relating to. To the point where there is no real antagonist, it’s nearly all inner turmoil. The only reason this works so well is because of subtle the script is in revealing information while never outwardly saying anything. This lets you make assumptions about these character, while feeling so organic.
Andrew Ahn mentioned in the Q&A it wasn’t originally written with Asian actors, but once he pitched the idea, it made the script work in ways they didn’t expect. The film was constructed in a very personal and intimate manner making the emotions feel real and hit like a ton of bricks. A compassionate film is equally funny, charming, and pleasant. It’s particularly impressive that even characters that have passed away have an undeniable presence in the film. Small in scope, large in heart.