Barbarella here to share a little about a festival film that I saw back in September that, to my knowledge, inexplicably still doesn’t have a distribution deal. I know investing money can be scary, but NIGHT DRIVE is such an exuberant ride, I’d be sad if more people didn’t get the opportunity to experience it. The trick would be marketing because if you show the wrong thing, it would either give away too much or misdirect people’s expectations of what type of film it is. However, word of mouth is bound to serve this film well because it’s just so entertaining and unexpected, and I think it would do very well on any digital platform. If I were in charge of marketing, I’d show a screening of the film to a select audience of genre fans. Then for the trailer, I’d assemble their post-film positive reactions while showing very minimal footage from the actual film in order to build the hype without spoiling the mystery.
I caught the film at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, and I am so happy I did. I went into it with limited expectations, believing that it’s going to join the growing number of forgettable films about rideshare drivers. However, it proves to be something that truly stands out. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the best rideshare-related thriller out there, packed with mystery, tension, and both light and dark humor.
When Russell (AJ Bowen) picks up Charlotte (Sophie Dalah), a fare who seems to have something not-quite-right about her, his endless stream of boring rides with the same small-talk is going to end in dramatic fashion. After a first stop at her ex’s house to retrieve something, Charlotte emerges with a small case and a whole lot of trouble.
From the onset, the film has great humor and AJ Bowen’s Russell proves very likable, just the kind of guy I would love to have as a rideshare driver. I love the dialogues in which he engages from the very beginning and throughout the film. As an occasional rideshare passenger, I had no idea how tedious those small talk questions I ask could become for someone who drives all the time. So, in addition to being entertaining, it’s also a bit educational. I learned the small talk to avoid when taking a rideshare.
Russell’s life appears complicated, but he’s managing. While he has a certain charm and his story generates interest, it’s Charlotte’s character exploration that proves the more entertaining. As we peel off the layers and get to the bottom of the mystery, her story generates some exciting situations. The film starts out with a standard set up, but quickly shifts into darker territory. The suspense increases as mysterious circumstances grow.
I love how NIGHT DRIVE evolves. Every new circumstance Russell and Charlotte encounter brings more intrigue and enjoyment. I find it challenging to write about this film though because it’s one of those that is best to go in as blind as possible. Instead, I’ll just say this. Venturing into unexpected territory, NIGHT DRIVE takes us on one heck of a ride. I sincerely hope a distributor realizes the value in what Meghan Leon and Brad Baruh created here so that more people have the opportunity to experience this journey.