Across The Way
Stars: Brian Dennehy, Lucas Jaye, Hong Chau, Christine Ebersole, Robyn Payne and Jerry Adler
Director: Andrew Ahn
Scriptwriter: Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen
Composer: Jay Wadley
Cinematography: Ki Jin Kim
Rating: Not rated but could be PG 13 for profanity
Running Length: One Hour and 23 Minutes
The late Brian Dennehy was always a favorite actor. From his mellow side in “Cocoon” to harsh realism in television’s “Blacklist,” he captured the screen. A large man, he could be tough or gentle. “Driveways” is one of his last films and the gentle side comes through here. Dennehy plays Del, a widower in a small town in the upper Northeast. He lives alone, sits on his front porch, watches the town go by and plays Bingo at a local VFW. Life is routine and serene. Enter, a new neighbor next door, with a child, and Del’s world is turned around. Be friendly or not? Decisions must be made. You will also see actor Jerry Adler (“The Good Fight”) as one of Del’s friends from the VFW.
The story begins with Del relaxing on his front porch. Enter a young Asian woman, Kathy (Hong Chau from “Downsizing”) with her young son, Cody(Lucas Jaye from“Fuller House”). Kathy is the executor of her late sister’s estate, including this house and possessions. Kathy barely nods in meeting Del thinking she will be there a short time---until she really goes through the house and finds her sister was a hoarder. What a mess to clean up, including a dead cat. Del offers help and soon there is a friendship building between the older man, the young woman and the son who sorely could use a grandfather-figure. His mother can be a bit harsh with Cody, but only because she doesn’t want him hurt, physically or emotionally. But, then, the fun begins with the adventure at the VFW place, planning a party, meeting new friends and Del is always there to assist. The nosey next door neighbor with her two ruffian sons, is Christine Ebersole (“Bob Hearts Abishola”) as Linda, and the real estate lady offering sale advice is Charlene (Robyn Payne from "Blue Bloods".) It’s about this time that surprises happen, so don’t think all is calm here.
“Driveways” goes along at a leisurely pace. You can drive through any town and see driveways dividing properties and wonder what lives are being intersected by pavement. Just like the surface gradually wears off a driveway, so the layer of everyday living gently peels away to reveal another angle to life just underneath. There are differences in this community. Cody is a quiet child and just right for the bullies to pounce on. Kathy is of another culture and heads turn when she enters a store.
Brian Dennehy’s character of Del, is slow to reveal emotion, but his body language shows it in bits and pieces. On the opposite side, Hong Chau’s “Kathy,” can be stern and then loosen up a bit, as a mother living in unusual circumstances. The young actor, Lucas Jaye, is fine as “Cody,” who copes with his situation as a lone child, but starts to open up to Dennehy. Humor is provided by Christine Ebersole’s “Linda,” who can never say the right thing and whose two sons are too much to handle. The film ended rather abruptly and I could have used a good five minutes more to even things out.
A peaceful town with a peaceful street and quiet houses, but oh, what stories they hold. When the hoarder’s house is cleaned up, it is an entirely different scenario. It is actually beautiful. Maybe, when differences are put aside and discarded, people can be seen for what they are…actually beautiful. This cast knows how to do just that. For one of his last films, Brian Dennehy has a small gem here.
Copyright 2020 Marie Asner