'Driving Not Knowing': Outfest Review

Driving Not Knowing
This study of a troubled relationship cries out for a real writer.

Two men who broke up a year earlier try to rekindle the flame out in the country.

One of the world premieres playing at Outfest is a semi-improvised musical drama, Driving Not Knowing. Filmed on a low budget on some attractive locations in rural Pennsylvania, the movie is a rambling, uninvolving piece that will not have much shelf life beyond the festival circuit.

At the start, Will (Dane Mainella) is a poet living with Lee (Jay Jadick), a musician.They have collaborated on some projects and apparently have had some sexual flirtation, but Lee is more invested in the romantic relationship than Will. Frustrated, Lee takes off and moves to the country. One year later, Will and his live-in friend Jo (Emily Rea) decide to show up for a visit. Sexual tensions simmer once again without being resolved.

That’s all there is to the story, which is pitifully underdeveloped. Characterizations are equally flimsy. The two lead actors are credited as writer-directors, along with Benjamin R. Davis and Dylan Hansen-Fliedner. So the whole enterprise was obviously a collaborative venture that only goes to prove how desperately real writers are needed to create a compelling movie.

The film jumps back and forth in time and also cuts frequently to some supporting characters, including a rural drug dealer (Bruce Spears) who has a pet pig and a supply of pills and other supplements to keep his pals happy. But the essence of the piece is the conflicted relationship of Will and Lee. Will’s confusion is only moderately interesting, though Lee’s growing frustration is certainly believable. 

The best thing about the movie is the evocative cinematography, which does make this rural getaway look enticing. The music by Charley Ruddell is intermittently engaging. The actors are competent, but don’t have the charisma that would help to compensate for the thinly drawn characters. No doubt this kind of push-pull relationship between a gay man and another who is more confused is not uncommon, but it would take much sharper writing to keep us interested in yet another variation on the theme. Rent Brokeback Mountain to see how it should be done.

Cast: Dane Mainella, Jay Jadick, Emily Rea, Bruce Spears, Alex Temme, Michael Wintermute

Director-screenwriters: Benjamin R. Davis, Dylan Hansen-Fliedner, Dane Mainella, Jay Jadick

Producer: Benjamin R. Davis

Directors of photography: Benjamin R. Davis, Dylan Hansen-Fliedner

Editor: Dana J. Boyd

Music: Charley Ruddell

No rating, 86 minutes