The road trip movie seems to be a staple in the indie film world, and it is easy to understand why. These movies tend to be less about the literal journey but more about the characters taking them. As such, filmmakers can get away with long scenes of dialogue and character exposition and keep their films visually dynamic by virtue of the changing scenery.
Indeed, we get to see a lot of Europe in Simone Catania’s first feature Drive Me Home, which follows former childhood friends Antonio (Vinicio Marchioni) and Agostino (Marco D’Amore) as they travel between Germany and Italy. From the rural farm that we see in flashbacks to their childhood to the beautiful Swiss countryside, Drive Me Home is deceptively expansive for what is mainly a character piece. Antonio has become a nomadic hustler in his adult life, scrounging for scraps, often in dishonest ways. Agostino has become a truck driver and is in a better economic position than Antonio. The two accidentally cross paths during one of Agostino’s trips, and Agostino’s more polished demeanor clashes with Antonio’s brash, confrontational personality. In fact, there is little to suggest that these two ever had anything in common, especially since Marchioni looks like he’s at least a decade older than D’Amore.
Most of Drive Me Home is dedicated to slowly revealing what had happened to both men who have not seen each other since they were teenagers. Both D’Amore and Marchioni are excellent as fundamentally different characters. While both men have opposite personalities, we can tell that both are hiding significant secrets and that both are nursing wounds from some untold trauma. We learn that Agostino is gay at the same time that Antonio does and that his sexual orientation probably has something to do with why he left home long ago. For much of this movie, we wonder if perhaps these two had a relationship in the past beyond mere friendship. The two men certainly have a camaraderie and intimacy with deep roots, and it is not unreasonable to expect a personal history somewhat along the lines of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.
Drive Me Home is strongest when it exists within this ambiguity. Other than the beautiful scenery that Catania makes sure to capture often, the scenes where both Agostino and Antonio are talking are fascinating in their own right. The music by Air Kanada provides a clever emotional undercurrent to these conversations since we know from the flashback at the beginning of the movie that both of them really loved music and wanted to perform. One of the most striking scenes is when Antonio finds out that Agostino is gay and is told in neon images and pulsating sound at a spa that doubles as an underground brothel. An especially charged look that the two exchange tells volumes on its own. When answers are finally given though, they don’t quite live up to the promise of these early scenes.
However, though their story is not quite what we expect, Catania did lay the groundwork for the resolution. Both men’s economic statuses play a large part in their actions and motivations, and Catania chooses to show a Europe divorced of its tourist attractions and romanticism to emphasize the economic (and consequently spiritual) disenfranchisement these men feel. Yet Catania doesn’t insist on pushing lessons on us, but rather lets these ideas inform our understanding of his film. In total, Drive Me Home displays some very solid filmmaking, and its most impressive feat is its honest depiction of a close friendship between two men who aren’t naturally inclined to open up to anyone.