“You need to start being there for him”
Writer/director Ali Y. Akarcesme‘s latest short Driven is full of questions that may or may not need answers. It deals with Nicole (Sandy Pasquale) and her son Josh (Joseph Minogue) trying to accept a new dynamic at home without the man who had been playing husband and father when not drinking or yelling. She has retreated inward, passing the time baking and taking care of the house while awaiting a buyer for the large truck parked in her driveway. Josh holds out hope his dad will return despite Nicole constantly reminding him it will never happen, refusing to change his trio-based routine and willfully sabotaging any attempt at selling the one thing besides him that his father might return to collect.
That’s the assumption at least. Akarcesme never actually reveals who took the automobile’s title from the kitchen table or who repositioned a photo depicting their broken family on Nicole’s nightstand. She accuses Josh of doing it and his reactions are emotional enough for us to believe it was him, but couldn’t it also be Nicole herself still unable to move past the marriage that so abruptly came to a close? The divorce has obviously affected her immensely to the point where she cannot always leave the house from fear even when she knows Josh is playing too close to potential danger. She’s struggling with the change and perhaps her own subconscious is forgetting that this chapter in her life consists of only two.
Leaving such important details hidden that literally drive the plot forward—the story mainly revolves around Nicole readying paperwork for a prospective buyer (Ivica Marc‘s Bob, whom she recently went on a date with)—is welcome because both versions are equally resonate. Introducing motifs that infer a sort of divine intervention, however, may be too much. There’s often a subtle glow of headlights that awakens Nicole from deep thought and the camera lingers on the truck before dissolving into the next scene as though there’s more than meets the eye. The truck becomes a catalyst for the central mother/son relationship as a result: threatening to provide a reason to break them apart just as it possesses the ability to mend.
Driven is somewhat manipulative in the process with acting that approaches melodrama. Nicole and Josh are frustrated and at times their exasperation loses the depth necessary to render it above brattiness. A climactic montage with footage we’ve already seen should steer us to clarity but the mystery of who’s keeping the absent patriarch in focus remains. The only addition is a glimpse at Bob’s own anger—a reaction that appears extremely overblown since he can’t honestly be that mad simply because Nicole misplaced the title. Ultimately, gaps in the plotting like this one hold us at arm’s length. We appreciate Nicole’s emotional evolution back to her maternal instincts and love, but the journey may be too muddled to fully understand it.