Drive All Night: Review

Drive All Night: Review

This film follows a cab driver named Dave (Yutaka Takeuchi). Dave is a quiet man who spends his nights taking fares and hanging out at a diner where he talks with Morgan (Sarah Dumont), the waitress who works the night shift. Dave and Morgan both seem to like each other but neither one is willing to truly pursue the other. Dave’s seemingly simple and peaceful life is disrupted when he picks up the mysterious Cara (Lexy Hammonds), a young woman who instructs Dave to simply “just drive” as she claims she does not know where she wants to go.

The remainder of the film focuses on Dave and Cara as they get to know one another through various conversations as they drive around the city and make several stops during the night. It soon also becomes clear that Cara is not entirely directionless, but has an agenda that is not entirely clear. Complicating things is that a mysterious Boss (Von Scott Bair) has commissioned the stoic and intimidating Lenny (Johnny Gilligan) to find and stop Cara from accomplishing some unknown task. As if all this was not strange enough, there are indications that the world itself these characters inhabit is not what it appears to be.

Writer and director Peter Hsieh weaves a tale that is wholly unique despite there being some memorable entries in the “drive all night” genre. Hsieh’s film stands out due to its carefully constructed ambiguity. While the film is beautifully designed on a visual and auditory level, and there are clear themes present such as the nature of fate as opposed to choice, sleep versus consciousness, and reality versus fantasy, Hsieh chooses for neither his script nor characters to give the audience any obvious or easy answers. This lack of a definitive interpretation of the story will likely deter and frustrate certain viewers, while other viewers may find the subjectivity and possibility of rewatches offering new meanings a huge positive. Due to all of these elements, this film has the potential of becoming a cult classic.

As stated above, one of the most striking things about the film is how strong it is on every technical level. The cinematography by William Hellmuth contains a mix of wide and long shots. However, regardless of the depth of field, the focus is always on the main characters. This contrast of having elegantly composed frames but emphasis on character creates a paradoxical feeling that the setting is both incredibly defined but also confined.

The coloring by Dan Edwards is also superb. Specifically, the film makes repeated use of the colors red and blue for different types of scenes throughout the film and it provides great contrast for character wardrobes and sets. Though, as with most things in the film, its exact meaning is unclear. Does it represent good vs evil? reality versus dreams? Regardless of the interpretation of its significance, the use of color in this film will most likely be one of the things viewers coming out of the film remember most.

One of the most innovative ways the film informs viewers that what they are seeing is not as it seems is conspicuous editing by Guillermo Areizaga and Peter Hsieh. Throughout the film there are “glitches” where the film jumps to a different frame of something mid-action such as a character putting something in their pocket. Even when the film is streamed, it has an appearance of a film being played by projection, complete with reel changes. Is this a pure aesthetic choice? A nod by the filmmakers that the characters themselves know they are in a work of fiction? This another aspect of the jigsaw puzzle nature of the film.

The synth heavy score by Robert Daniel Thomas is a perfect accompaniment to the visuals. At the start of the film the synth is used to set a general tone of mystery and tension. As the film enters into more surrealist territory in terms of story and visuals, the score in turn morphs into a more ethereal and psychedelic backdrop.

In addition to the film’s subjective and daring use of image and sound, the performances are also unique in their own way. In a film marked by ambiguity, the characters are all enigmas themselves. In spite of this defining trait, all the performers do a great job in making sure there is emotion and depth present so that audiences will care about the characters till the very end, even if total understanding of the film and characters eludes them. This is especially true when it comes to Yutaka Takeuchi and Lexy Hammonds as Dave and Cara respectively.

Takeuchi plays Dave as a man who likes to “play things close to his chest” this becomes especially apparent when viewers see Dave’s stoicness as Cara makes repeated attempts to get him to open up throughout the film. Despite this outward facade, Takeuchi imbues Dave with a genuine sense of heart and vulnerability, something that a supporting character in the film says directly at one point. For her part, Lexy Hammonds is a scene-stealer as Cara, playing a character who at various points is smart, sweet, vulnerable, sassy, confident, and scared. Yet, despite all these emotions, by the end of the film one gets the feeling they have barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding who this person is. In a lot of ways, the breath of emotional range that Hammonds brings to the character of Cara serves as a perfect metaphor for the movie itself; multi-faceted direct and yet inevitably inaccessible.

If you are looking for a film with great performances, stunning visuals and sound design, and an experience that will leave you thinking and asking questions, watch this film if given the chance.     

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Trent loves watching and discussing films. Trent is a fan of character dramas and blockbusters. Some of his favorites include: The Breakfast Club, A Few Good Men and The Martian.


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