The road trip movie is a quintessentially American genre. Sure, directors in other countries have taken a stab at these narratives, but the idea of a cross country, four wheel drive instantaneously evokes images of the small towns and open roads of the USA – after all, few other countries have that expanse of land, and a melting pot of different cultures from state to state. But as a continent where freedom of movement is readily available between countries, it’s a surprise that the idea of a European road trip movie has never taken off, with an eclectic blend of landscapes and locales any story can be transplanted into.
Drive Me Home is a great feature length argument as to why road trip narratives shouldn’t often be so concentrated within the States. It doesn’t have the same glamour (Belgian service stations and Dutch truck stops can’t be easily romanticised), but it does have exactly what you want from a story within this genre: a richly drawn character study told within a warm, familiar template. Director Simone Catania manages to get a lot of mileage from this familiarity, with a story about childhood friends meeting up after growing apart possessing a lot more emotional weight when told with one eye on the open road.
Antonio (Vinicio Marchioni) and Agostino (Marco D’Amore) both grew up in a remote Sicilian village, their formative childhood experiences largely forged by the disdain they both shared for it. Now in their thirties, the pair haven’t seen each other for 15 years, but Antonio has made it his mission to track down Agostino after discovering that said childhood home is going to be sold at auction. Leaving Italy, he heads off elsewhere in the continent to track down Agostino, who has a limited social media presence, now goes by a different name, and is a truck driver who spans the entire continent, never making anything beyond fleeting connections with others. After an awkward start, the pair eventually reconnect, but simmering tensions from their younger years and their different paths in life eventually cause conflict – or, to put it simply, the classic road trip narrative formula occurs.
Since the pair last saw each other, Agostino has come out, and had a relationship for several years that went unbeknownst to those he grew up with. Mercifully, this is one aspect that doesn’t create tension between the pair – all the more impressive considering that Catania initially presents Antonio realising this when the pair visit a sauna under the influence, silently trying to rationalise how he could have been so unaware of an integral part of his old friend’s life. It’s as delicately handled as possible, considering the circumstances, and is one of the few moments where Marchioni’s charisma is turned down into something more muted – a man realising just how much things have changed since he last saw his friend.
One of the reasons the familiar material feels fresh is due to these twin lead performances, which perfectly articulate the awkwardness of meeting up with old friends and trying to avoid opening up old wounds that caused you to drift apart in the first place. As stated above, Marchioni is great at playing a guy who can turn on an enigmatic charisma at will, papering over just how broken he is in order to have a great time. D’Amore has the harder role, as a character purposefully refraining from sharing the more intimate details of his life with an old friend until the last possible moment – his initial withdrawn nature manages to depict an unspoken rift between the pair, proving that exposition is never necessary when you have a performer who can make their character feel lived in.
Drive Me Home is a charming addition to the road movie canon, and as familiar as its narrative beats may sometimes be, it’s still a trip worth taking.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures