By Leah Greenblatt
May 07, 2020 at 08:40 PM EDT
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Richard Hutchings

There's something about an actor's final screen performance that you almost can't help but imbue with extracurricular meaning — the kind, maybe, that the filmmaker, and the stars themselves, never intended.

It does seem like some kind of kismet, though, that the last role completed by Brian Dennehy, who died in April at 81, would feel like such a fitting coda to his long and rich career: a low-key but lovely performance in the small, delicately lived-in drama Driveways (out now on VOD) as a lonely widower named Del.

His worthy costar is Hong Chau (Homecoming, Watchmen); she plays Cathy, a worn-down single mother who, we learn obliquely in one of the movie's earliest scenes, has just lost her older sister, and has only come to Del's small town long enough to put her affairs in order, sell the house, and get out.

She's also brought her little boy with her, a wryly sensitive 8-year-old called Cody (Lucas Jaye). He's the one who first speaks to the elderly man one porch over, their neighborly chats blossoming into a sort of easy, familial friendship; Cathy, wary at the outset, soon seems relieved that he's found someone better to talk to than the terrorizing boys down the street.

Director Andrew Ahn (Spa Night) doesn't seem to be aiming for any kind of major epiphanies here. Instead, he lets his quiet observations of ordinary lives unspool over some 80 deliberately paced minutes: Del playing bingo with his fellow Korean War vets at the local VFW hall, Cathy silently grimacing as her useless ex delivers another empty promise over the phone, the slow death of a misguided birthday party at a clanging roller rink.

A few beloved character actors appear briefly, veterans like Christine Ebersole and Stan Carp, but mostly the movie belongs to the slow accumulation of moments between Jaye, Dennehy, and Chau — a gentle, almost willfully recessive story about love and loss and all the ways that people find to share the burden of them both, one unhurried day at a time. B

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