© Rapid Eye Movies HE GmbH

Drive My Car (Doraibu mai kâ)
Japan 2021

Opening 23 Dec 2021

Directed by: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
Writing credits: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Haruki Murakami, Takamasa Oe
Principal actors: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Yoo-rim Park, Dae-Young Jin

Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is an actor and theater director. His wife Oto (Reika Kirishima) writes scripts for theater presentations. They spend much time driving around in the car together. Yûsuke doesn’t feel so secure with his wife behind the wheel, but sometimes it’s necessary, e.g., when he suffers eye problems after an accident. There is much to discuss while driving: personal experiences, as well professional problems, all regularly interrupted by affectionate declarations of love for each other. What begins as a two-person film, changes two years later, when a new chapter unfolds. Unfortunately, Oto has died. Yûsuke is in Hiroshima putting together an international cast for his next play, Uncle Vanya. After some resistance, he hires a personal driver, Misaki (Toko Miura). She takes him back and forth between work and his place of residence, a hotel on an island. She listens patiently to long descriptions of Yûsuke’s memories of his deceased wife, as well as a tape recording of Oto herself, which plays constantly in the car.

I saw this film in the original Japanese, supported by seven other languages including Korean sign language, all with German subtitles. In spite of being one minute short of three hours in length, it never becomes tedious. It’s amazing that a film can be so fulfilling within the small space of a car on the road, mostly with Yûsuke discussing daily activities or difficulties such as casting young actor Kôji (Masaki Okada). Naturally, unexpected secrets are revealed. The red car, a Saab 900, is practically an actor on its own. Based on a short story by Haruku Murakami, Drive My Car has won many prizes including three at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. It will be Japan’s candidate for best film at the 2022 Oscar Award Ceremony. (Becky Tan)

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