Known for his many film, TV and theater roles, actor Brian Dennehy died in April 2020. Early in his career, Dennehy co-starred with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in “Foul Play”, a movie written and directed by the late Colin Higgins (“Harold and Maude”), an openly gay man. Near the end of his life, Dennehy starred in “Driveways” (FilmRise), a movie directed by Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”), also an openly gay man.
“Driveways” begins with single mother Kathy (Hong Chau) and her sensitive 8-year-old son Cody (Lucas Jaye) in a car on the way to the home of Kathy’s recently deceased sister April. When they arrive at night, Kathy discovers that the electricity has been turned off. She decides it’s best for her and Cody to spend the night in a nearby motel.
Back at April’s the next day, Kathy begins to learn more about her sister, beginning with the fact that she was a serious hoarder. An unpleasant odor is traced to a dead cat in a bathtub, uncovered by Cody. Kathy tells him to wait outside while she gets to work on the overwhelming cleanup task. While in the front yard, Cody meets Del (Dennehy), a Korean War vet and widower who was April’s next-door neighbor. After an initially awkward interaction, Kathy gives Del a ride to the VFW Hall where he plays bingo.
Settling into the job of making April’s house presentable for sale, Kathy and Cody become people of interest to the other neighborhood residents. Del, aware of the lack of electricity, runs an extension cord from his house to April’s. Siblings Miguel (Jeter Rivera) and Anna (Sophia DiStefano), who are near Cody’s age, introduce themselves to him. Blabbermouth busybody Linda (Christina Ebersole) welcomes Kathy and Cody to the neighborhood.
Kathy, a medical transcriptionist, continues doing her work at April’s, even as she makes slow but steady progress on the housecleaning project and meets with a realtor. Cody, meanwhile, forms an attachment to Del, while shunning Reese (James DiGiacomo) and Brandon (Jack Caleb), the wild, wrestling-enthusiast, firecracker-lighting grandsons of Linda.
Seeing Kathy’s ability to part with April’s belongings leads Del to donate books that belonged to his late wife Vera to the local library. He adds some of Vera’s dresses to the collection of items Kathy is compiling for the garage sale.
As Kathy begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel, she can see the way that Cody has adjusted to his new surroundings. Even though Del is the only one who shows up for Cody’s ninth birthday party at the roller rink, it doesn’t dampen the mother or son’s spirits. In fact, the birthday party expands to a real celebration when the three neighbors head to the VFW Hall for bingo.
Even in a movie as low-key as “Driveways,” there are moments of drama. Del’s daughter, a judge in Seattle, calls to tell him that she has found a place for him to live near her. When Del tells Cody he’s leaving, the boy is visibly upset. This isn’t the only change that Cody will be experiencing, especially after Kathy asks him if they should move into April’s house, instead of putting it on the market.
Ahn gets admirable acting work out of his cast, particularly Chau and Jaye. Ebersole adds a delightful spark to the mostly muted landscape, while Dennehy delivers one of the best and most understated performances of his lengthy career. “Driveways” is available for streaming or downloading on iTunes, Prime Video, GooglePlay, Microsoft, satellite and on-demand cable providers.