For his sophomore feature film director Andrew Ahn took a great leap from his award-winning debut. Spa Night was an exceptional coming-out story of a young Korean/American man who was confused at having a foot in different cultures and as such Ahn’s sympathetic and nuanced tale was a refreshing take on it all.
Driveways is the tale of Kathy (Hong Chau) a Korean/American single mother and her about-to-be 9 year old son Cody (Lucas Jaye) who has to drive across country to deal with her recently dead sister’s house. The siblings had been estranged for years and in fact had hadn’t known each other as adults, so what awaits Kathy is a dreadful shock.
The house was in pitch black as the power company owed a fortune had cut the supply, but even in the dark it was still clear to see that the sister must have had major issues as the house was packed from floor to ceiling with all her hoarding.. Kathy and Cody turned around and headed for the nearest motel where they camped out as long as their limited funds lasted.
Each day they trekked back to the house and Kathy started the enormous task of sorting through the mountains of junk. They were watched by an elderly neighbor who seemed to spend most of his day on his front porch. Although Kathy was wary of him, Cody had no such reservations and reached out to him and starts a friendship which became a turning point for both of them.
Del (wonderfully played by veteran actor Brian Dennehy) is a widowed Korean War Veteran now living alone in his big house which he only seems to leave to go play bingo at the VW. That is when his best friend who has early dementia remembers to come and pick him up. The normally shy Cody who has difficulty relating to other children his age quickly forms a tight bond with Del in a manner far mature for his age.
Ahn who proved how adept he was at creating such authentic relationships in Spa Night, ensures that this generational one avoids any maudlin or cuteness, but is based on a real need that they both have for friendship.’
It is very subtle, but then so too is Ahn’s observance of the struggles of an immigrant single mother trying to survive in what seems like redneck country. He includes a great cameo performance by Christine Ebersole as a well-meaning neighbor who trips out a few racist comments with a big smile on her face which she evidently believes makes them acceptable.
Driveways is a very different coming-of-age story with Cody finding out where he belongs and at the same time helping his mother come to the same realisation. The bond between them is not only very tight but contains this remarkable respect for each other that helps make this story so much more compelling That and the fact that the camera loves newcomer Lucas Jaye who is surely destined for big things in the future.