Review – Drive My Car

Friendships are at times stronger than the bond of family, with lived experiences only friends can share or understand. Sometimes these friends can be found in the most unexpected place and give you exactly what you need when you didn’t realise you needed it most.

Think, Lost in Translation or even The Way Way Back. Out of grief or loss or that uncertainty of who you are, comes someone who you would never expect to bond with. Out of that bond is a friendship you need to get back to living your best life. 

This is the basis for the Japanese film, Drive My Car from Director and Writer Rysuke Hamaguchi. It has claimed some prestigious awards such as the Golden Globes and the Cannes Film Festival. For anyone that doesn’t speak Japanese, there is so much of this film that will be lost. So much so, those people will need to watch it more than once. Once to read the subtitles and then another time to truly appreciate what it is that is being created on screen.

Stage actor Yusuke and TV writer Oto are living through the motions of a marriage. After the passing of their child, they both found themselves drifting along different paths of each other. Oto found the distraction in other men while Yusuke put all his efforts into his stage production and learning his lines. 

When Yusuke finds Oto with one of the actors in her TV show, he doesn’t get mad and seek revenge and he doesn’t tell her he knows. He goes about their everyday life with a little resentment and even more lost in the world. But that loss doesn’t compare to life without her. Which is what happened one tragic night when Yusuke came home to find Oto collapsed on the floor.

Some years later Yusuke is hired to Direct Uncle Vanya, a Russian play by Anton Chekhov. As part of that contract the theatre company requires Yusuke to have a driver to take him to and from rehearsals. This is where Yusuke meets Misaki, the driver. 

Through the many weeks of driving to and from rehearsals, Misaki and Yusuke find comfort in each other as they navigate their troubled past.

When you can’t understand what’s being said, you tend to look for other queues. Facial features, body language and listen for tone. One of the wonderful features of this film is in the actors. If you were to take away the lines and just have the actors perform, it would tell the same story. What’s not being said is even more powerful than what is being said. 

It all comes from Rysuke Hamaguchi who wrote and directed the adaptation from the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami. While there is a lot happening with each of the story lines, it is all captured and intertwined organically. So much so Hamaguchi has managed to create a world you could easily feel part of.

Visually Drive My Car brings this extra element to add to the story line. It’s like it is letting you in on a secret not even the characters know. From these wide shots with the car driving through high density suburban areas. To the remote snow covered lands with nothing more than a factory in the distance. The secret is, they are but a small human in a very big place. The film takes you to these big garbage compactors and makes the characters tiny in comparison. The juxtaposition about big and small, near and far reigns in the characters’ feelings.

Overall, Drive My Car on a very simple level is a story about two people who meet with a turbulent background and become friends. Their friendship is built with finding comfort in each other from their grief. There are some wonderful performances which makes it hard to read the subtitles. But this doesn’t take away from following the film. It’s a journey that leaves you feeling like you’ve also made a new friend and realise we’re just one small part of a very big world. 

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