“Driving Around, Following Strangers” is pure amazement, following Carl (Joel Harmon) as he drives around those hidden places of Seattle, the kind where big-wig cameras don’t go and for good reason. Leave it to the indie filmmakers who have those feelings and those emotions and those reasons to go inside Scarecrow Video for one. Even after what I hope will be 60 more years watching movies, filmmaker Michael Harring’s short will still be in my memory, with everything it contains.
Carl is spending time with his grandfather (Michael G. Harring) after the death of his grandmother which has left him hanging out there, feeling almost like nothing. He’s away from home and unsure about where he is and what he is doing, but decides to take his grandfather’s car and head out into Seattle’s University District and other areas, searching for something. Anything. Even a girl (Maya Lawson) who he sees at a movie theater and decides to follow her, curious. Something drives him and with his current condition, it’s not sex-driven. She represents something new, possibly something exciting. Or is it some kind of comfort given to him by looking at her that he can’t get from his girlfriend (Lawson’s voice) at home? His conversation with her, played on the soundtrack at the beginning and repeated at certain intervals, already sounds commonplace.
This trip for Carl is much more than finding who he is, wondering where his life has gone. For the most part, save for snatches of dialogue, it is played out silently as he drives and as Harring’s camera, led by DP Jaideep Dasgupta, captures a stunning Seattle, J Andrew Toms’ music becomes a transcendent partner to the images, lifting it up to a higher plane, far above the stars, far above natural reason. Sometimes we’re Carl and sometimes we just feel like traveling. Harring and his cast and crew have produced a resounding emotional success with this short. “Driving Around, Following Strangers” is one example out of hundreds of why we have indie filmmakers, why they continue to do the work that drives them to show other people what they see.