“Have you seen Drive yet? You should.” I keep saying this, sometimes to strangers. It has become my sleeper hit, the film that sank into my skin and stayed there, an invisible tattoo just under the surface, built of silence, violence, and those terrifying, honest moments when you realize just how much you can mean to someone.
The plot is nearly forgettable, yet there were moments in the film that felt so honest that I can’t properly express why they were important, except to say that I miss some people, the same way all of us do. They’re far away or they’re dead or they don’t talk to you anymore and that’s just how it is. And this movie, Drive, a silly heist-gone-wrong movie with guns and blood and broken teeth, captured that completely.
He shyly smiles at her, then she looks out the window of the car as they drive through night-time L.A., (as you do if you live there, it’s just part of the experience, part of the mythology, as essential to the city’s identity as the palm trees that line every block), and he looks away and then, in that moment where they are both looking away and both of them are silent, only the radio plays, she reaches out and puts her hand on his on the gear-shift and it’s a revelation. He laces his fingers with hers and yes, I’ve been there, that precise feeling, I know it exactly, oh my chest hurts, this entire thing hurts, I want to cry, and the music swells up again and everything is just right.
Meanwhile the entire thing ticks on as calmly as it can, fueled by a killer, dreamy soundtrack, a quiet and efficient character piece dipped in low-rent Hollywood action. I’m a sucker for lovingly evocative images of downtown Los Angeles, but the true power of the film rests in how subtle the real story is, how intense its raw poetry. As far as I’m concerned, the title isn’t Drive for the expected reasons, but after the main character’s will and motivations, impeccably brought to life by Ryan Gosling. It’s a very fine trick for a revenge film, given how limiting the heavy narrative structure of a crime drama generally is, to have such a sincere respect for the complexity of human relationships, but underneath the cliché bag-of-money device and the scathing mob bosses, (played beautifully by Albert Brooks and an almost shockingly foul mouthed Ron Perlman), there runs an incredible focus on intimacy, interaction stylistically pared down to the basics. The film unfolds scene after scene like vivisection lessons on how much it’s possible to communicate without words. Even the clockwork-plot murders seem to be legitimate, less fiction than a memory that someone has chosen to share.
Some people don’t like it, you might not, (one friend of mine went so far as to say it was like watching unlikeable robots), but the fact remains that you should see it anyway. If only for the soundtrack. Or the bit in the elevator. I’d marry that scene.