Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Driveways Movie Poster Image
Rewarding gem about friendship and life's changes; swearing.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 83 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes healing power of friendship; a singular relationship can change lives. Recognizes commonality and timelessness of human emotions and rejoices in shared experiences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Older man, single mother, and boy are all compassionate, honest, resourceful, dependable at heart. Their story enhances those qualities and encourages loyalty, confidence, perseverance. Ethnic and gender diversity.


A startling shot of a dead cat. Two bullies-in-waiting tease a vulnerable young boy.


Occasional profanity: "f--k," "Christ," "s--t," "d--k," "horny," "hell," "pissed," "blow job."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking in several scenes, no drunkenness. A main character smokes.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Driveways is a gentle drama about a solitary, thoughtful 9-year-old boy and the friendship he develops with an elderly gentleman across the "driveway." For the boy, that driveway is new; for the old man, it's paved with a lifetime of memories. Each is at a decisive moment in his life; each takes tentative steps toward what will come next. Viewers can expect occasional profanity -- "f--k," "s--t," "pissed," "hell," "d--k," "Christ" -- uttered mostly by the boy's mother in frustration. Two wannabe bullies tease the young hero; he vomits in response. There's a startling reveal of a dead cat. A main character smokes (her son disapproves). Some alcohol is consumed in social settings (no drunkenness). Compassionately and in simple terms, the film deals with serious issues: grief, change, loneliness, sexual identity, and self-acceptance. 

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What's the story?

Cody (Lucas Jaye), almost 9, and his single mom, Kathy (Hong Chau), journey halfway across the country to dispose of the house and belongings of April, Kathy's recently deceased older sister, in DRIVEWAYS. The two women haven't been close, but nothing has prepared Kathy and Cody for what they find. Aunt April was a hoarder. The house is overflowing with furniture and collectibles, all lost amidst mountains of trash and garbage. What seemed like a quick pack-up-and-sell project has become much more. The massive cleanup begins. As the days progress, Cody begins a tentative relationship with Del (Brian Dennehy), the elderly man next door. For both the boy -- lonely, shy, and wise beyond his years -- and the proud ex-soldier, who's now too much on his own, this new friendship becomes meaningful, enlightening, and ultimately transformative. 

Is it any good?

Delivering the simplicity and honesty that only an assured director and graceful writing provides, with remarkable performances and a compelling story, this film might be an almost "perfect movie." For a story without a complex plot, there are still enough surprises and offbeat moments to keep it from being predictable. Brian Dennehy, in one of his final performances, gives a great one. He's matched scene for scene by Lucas Jaye, a child who's as wonderfully truthful and intelligent in the role as he is lovable. The evolution of their relationship, based on insight and empathy despite their ages, is the highlight of an already smart, unusual film. Driveways is director Andrew Ahn's second feature film. Highly recommended.                                                                                      

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the term "character-driven film." How does Driveways fit that description? What moves the story forward: Is it a series of events, or does it rely on personal emotions and/or behavior? Categorize some other film favorites of yours: Are they action-driven, plot-driven, or character-driven? Which do you usually like best, and why?

  • Sometimes a place can be considered a "character" in a movie or story. How was Aunt April's house a character in this film? How did the house, especially the interior, affect the story? Could there have been any story at all without Aunt April's house? Why or why not?

  • Cody's mom called him "Professor." Why? What character traits did he have that might have reminded Kathy of a professor? 

  • Movies like this one are sometimes referred to as "slice-of-life" films. How does that term describe Driveways?

Movie details

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