Mom and son
Mother and son are the new arrivals in Driveways.

In Driveways, a mother and son travel to her dead sister’s suburban house to clean it out. Turns out said sister was a hoarder, and there is a lot of work to be done. While Kathy (Hong Chau) cleans out the house, 8-year-old Cody (Lucas Jaye) explores the neighborhood and makes friends with its denizens. Widower Del (Brian Dennehy) lives next door, and Cody starts hanging out with him while his mom is dealing with years of accumulated stuff.

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Kathy is a single mother and Cody’s dad isn’t reliably in the picture, so Cody is drawn to Del. At first, everyone is a bit suspicious of each other. But as gruff Del and sensitive Cody spend more time together, the older man opens up to the boy, gives advice, and lays out his life philosophy. He is also a calm, reliable helper in their current predicament, which also add something fresh to his quiet life.

Driveways is a slow moving, gentle story about a developing friendship, one person young and starting his life, the other older with his life slowing down. It’s a screenwriter’s movie, with the conversations and relationships taking center stage.

An interesting element to the film is it was originally written with white actors in mind. But when Korean American director Andrew Ahn came onto the project, he cast Asian American actors in the roles of Kathy and Cody. This adds a racial component to the film that is left ambiguous. When an older neighbor asks Kathy where she's from, you hold your breath, waiting for the misunderstanding to arrive. Del is a Korean War vet—is he holding onto some old, stereotypical ideas? It doesn’t play out that way, however. Kathy and Cody are just regular people temporarily living in the neighborhood.

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Overall, Driveways is nicely balanced—the actors are great, the child protagonist is not annoying, and it is an interesting story that isn’t cliché. It’s a sweet film about humans spending time together and the connections they build.

Driveways screens Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the 45th Seattle International Film Festival. For a breakdown of what's showing these last few days of SIFF (which closes on Sunday night), visit The Stranger's SIFF guide.