Only a few weeks ago drive my car would have been considered the best movie you’ve never heard of. Now, with a deserving Best Picture Oscar nomination to its name, hopefully the same enthusiasm and appreciation that drove Parasite to fame two years ago can be transferred to this foreign language gem.
A Japanese drama that lasts almost three hours is certainly not the sexiest hook for the public, but Ryusuke HamaguchiThe film is so incredibly rewarding and engrossing that its extended runtime is never really felt; it’s masterful storytelling from start to finish.
I’ll also preface this review with the fact that despite the “Drive” in the title, this isn’t a fast-paced, action-oriented movie. There is a literal drive – in the sense of travel – and a metaphorical drive for the main character Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), as he navigates a new life after the death of his wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima), someone he knew was unfaithful to him but didn’t find the energy or courage to confront him.
The red Saab 900 that Yûsuke drives every morning to the theater where he is staging “Uncle Vanya” by Checkov is both a vehicle and an itinerary that he holds close to his chest; he likes the extended drive so he can run lines, a practice technique in which he incorporated his wife’s voice as she “recites” lines to him. The Russian play is one he hopes to stage in different languages, including sign language, and the choice for him to engage the volatile and unpredictable Takatsuki (masaki okada), who we suspect may have had an affair with Oto, as her lead suggests a more soapy temper will be adopted. But, of course, we should know better than that.
Adapted from Haruki Murakami’s acclaimed 2014 short story, drive my car is as much about the space between the lines as the words themselves, which is most prevalent through the progressive relationship between Yūsuke and the young Misaki (Toko Miura, just glorious). Due to a company policy that dated back to a fatal car accident, Yūsuke’s employers insist that he be driven by a driver – Misaki – and although their initial dynamic is defined by his silence around him , they end up forming a bond through the tragedies. they both suffered; Yūsuke involves his deceased wife and the ghostly inspiration she still conveys through her involvement in her art, Misaki relates to the loss of his family home, a story she shares by driving him to her mountain village.
Everything on drive my car is so specific and helpful. Much like the cast’s measured understanding of their characters in “Uncle Vanya,” Hamaguchi dedicates time and attention to Yūsuke and Misaki’s creations. They become fully realized people, more than just celluloid figures, and the ultimate effect is devastating in its beauty.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
drive my car is currently showing in Australian cinemas.