Title – Drive My Car (2021)
Director – Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour)
Cast – Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, Reika Kirishima
Plot – Well known Japanese stage actor and director Yûsuke Kafuku (Nishijima) heads to Hiroshima for a high profile project following the unexpected passing of his wife Oto (Kirishima). It’s here that Yûsuke will come to terms with his past and future while striking up a friendship with his driver Misaki (Miura).
“If you really want to look at someone, then your only option is to look at yourself squarely and deeply”
Review by Eddie on 25/03/2022
In an Oscar’s year where there were little surprises when it comes to who and what was nominated, there’s one film that stood out from the pack as it found itself in the hotly contested and heavyweight filled Best Picture category along with three other nominations, that film was the Japanese made Drive My Car.
A 3-hour character driven (no pun intended) epic, that’s credits don’t even come into play until roughly 40 minutes into its runtime, Drive is the newest work from Oscar nominated director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who here adapts famed writer Haruki Murakami’s short story into a moving and effective meditation on life, love and death as we follow Hidetoshi Nishijima’s stage director and actor Yûsuke Kafuku on a journey of self-discovery following the unexpected death of his long term wife Oto.
A complicated relationship, one consumed by the death of a child and the fact Oto was not faithful to the marriage in all instances, Yûsuke must come to terms with his new life and his old life as he looks to bring a stage play of Uncle Vanya to light while dealing with one of Oto’s previous lovers who is in his adaptation while learning to adapt to his new friendship with his chaperone driver Misaki.
There’s nothing in Drive that hasn’t been explored before, there’s no huge revelations or game changing narrative devices at play here, but there’s an undeniable and effective manner to how Hamaguchi directs his film with its low-key editing and quietly beautiful way in which it is captured ensures that Yûsuke’s journey is a poignant and deeply moving one when all the pieces of the puzzle begin to be formed and with effective side plots such as a lovely couple drawn together despite language and cultural barriers or Misaki’s own personal life issues making Drive an all round dramatic experience that puts most Hollywood efforts to shame.
Undoubtedly helping Drive get noticed in the big way it has been over the last few months is the films central performances with Nishijima’s awards worthy turn as the aloof but relatable Yûsuke.
One of the performers best ever turns is a huge bonus for the film while many of the supporting cast put in good work in their various roles, making Hamaguchi’s awards contender one of the best performed ensemble pieces of recent memory.
One questionable aspect of Drive that has to be asked is if it in fact needed to be three hours in length?
While some viewers may want more of what the film has to offer, there are a lot of long-winded scenes focused around table reads or even early scenes with Oto and Yûsuke that quite possibly could’ve been trimmed in the editing suite without those actions affecting the overall quality or narrative richness of Hamaguchi’s human centred study and there are times where the flow of Drive is halted by a collation of scenes and moments that don’t add much to what its end goals become.
Final Say –
Drive My Car is an impressive drama that has unexpectedly found itself becoming one of the most talked about dramatic epics of recent memory. Culminating in an emotionally rich finale, this Oscar nominee is a moving and effectively performed drama that is deceptively layered, despite the fact it may not have needed to be the bum-numbing trip it becomes.
4 cassette tapes out of 5