“Drive, She Said” is a meet-cute road movie that starts in high gear but soon takes too many left turns for its own good. Mina Shum’s second feature, after her well-remarked, Chinese-themed low-budgeter “Double Happiness,” is too mild a confection to motor on to much theatrical business.
Nadine (Moira Kelly) seems born under an odd star. On her first day at work in a bank, the place is held up; the upside is that she falls for co-worker Jonathan (Sebastian Spence). But five years later the two are in counseling. Enter Tass (Josh Hamilton), a new guy in town, to whom she is attracted and by whom she is later abducted when he holds up the same bank.
Experiencing the freedom she’s always secretly craved, Nadine decides to stick with him on the road as they’re pursued by the law. Slowly they make their way to (the fictional) China City to visit Tass’ sick mother in hospital, but Jonathan is already one step ahead of them.
The opening, with Nadine’s voiceover narration, establishes a light, almost fairy-tale tone that is maintained through the strength of Kelly’s breezy performance and the fast-moving plot developments. Once on the road, Kelly and Hamilton make an agreeable screen pair, with their dialogue OK, if not sparkling. It’s when Shum, after the first act, has to decide what to do with them that the pic slowly slides onto a sandbar, veering off into curious chinoiserie (including a sequence at a hotel that lurches into the gaudy color scheme of “Double Happiness”) that seems to owe more to her Hong Kong background than anything to do with the characters.
Kelly gives the role of Nadine her best shot but is eventually undermined by the script’s vagaries. Hamilton is OK and, as Nadine’s uninspiring partner, Spence is serviceable. The technically fine pic was shot in British Columbia, but care seems to have been taken to eradicate any sign of Canadian identity in the story’s setting, which is simply generic North American.