Screenplay Review: Driver’s Seat
Written by Steve Freehauf, Driver’s Seat is a full-length thriller screenplay.
In Driver’s Seat, a mysterious stranger interrupts a young man's life and sets for a series of personal challenges, some with tragic results. The story presents a love rollercoaster between Shawn, Annie (Shawn’s girlfriend) and Will (the mysterious stranger), and culminates with a unique version of good vs evil.
Based on the writer’s personal Christian faith, Driver’s Seat is an allegory. It has a “treasure hunt” for scripture references throughout the story, which gives a deeper meaning to the work.
The structure is mostly linear, except for a few flashbacks that provide hints and move the plot forward. The story develops all the time, sometimes in unexpected directions, which creates interest and tension between the characters. There is a steady rise in conflicts, which begins with an encounter with a stranger and ends with a number of murders and entanglements of the protagonists of the plot.
The characters are well written. Each of them has a unique “voice” – they speak differently, their behavior feels natural and based on their backgrounds, and their actions are believable throughout.
Shawn's character is very interesting, and the reader connects with him pretty quickly. Some of his decisions are not entirely clear, especially in the early stages, when all sorts of warning signs don’t cause him to withdraw from the relationship with Will, but rather to laugh with him and accept his strange behavior.
Clearly, Shawn's refusal to bring Will home would have made it difficult for the plot to develop, but it could have made Will’s goals more difficult to achieve.
Will’s character is fascinating. He is strange, but full of charm. Dangerous and mysterious, but also clever. His actions are unpredictable, and his way of thinking is interesting and different. Will seems like the ultimate antagonist, but once the reader begins to know him, he surprises and changes the reader's perception of good and evil.
From the moment she gets to know him at brunch, Annie is fascinated by Will, which makes Shawn jealous and makes it possible to complicate the plot. She knows how to anger Shawn and make him jealous: "I guess I can just hang out with Will?"
Annie's cold attitude towards Saul and Saul's importance to Shawn cause tension between Shawn and Annie, and Will knows how to take advantage of that to get closer to Annie emotionally and physically.
Saul, Shawn’s best friend, is a “free spirit” kind of guy, and already at an early stage he is in conflict with Will, which creates interest in what is going to happen between them later.
Another interesting character is Hot Shot, Saul's stepfather (or as the friends call him “Hot Shit”). The problematic connection between Saul and Hot Shot is well shown on the basketball court.
There are moments that feel less natural, such as when Shawn talks to himself in the parking lot, but in general the dialogue is clever and intriguing most of the time. Will’s lines set him up as a mysterious character, making the reader wonder if he’s being sarcastic or totally serious. Either way, he sure knows how to confuse the characters he meets along the way. For example, when Shawn asks him “You never said why you were hanging out back there?” Will replies: “I was waiting for you to ask directions.”
Some of the dialogues are spiced with fine sarcasm. Annie, who naturally tries to understand how Shawn let a complete stranger get into his car (and life), tells Shawn: “Any strange friend of yours is a strange friend of mine!”
Driver’s Seat seems to have all the ingredients of a fascinating independent thriller – a story that opens with a man who has lost the way to his hotel and asks for help from a stranger on the road, which leads to a love triangle, violence and mysterious deaths.
Some of the dialogues could be shortened, and the scenes that contained text messages could easily have turned into phone calls or face-to-face meetings, but overall, the writer’s work is good. Given that this is Freehauf’s first feature screenplay, this is a wonderful and impressive achievement.
The writing is fluid and rhythmic, with excellent peaks of dramatic scenes and lots of mystery surrounding the characters and their background story. The plot is constantly evolving and there is an increase in suspense until the climax and the beautiful closure of Shawn and Will in the car.