MOVIE REVIEW: “Drive My Car” stars Hidetoshi Nishijima (The Wind Rises, License to Live), Toko Miura (Spaghetti Code Love, Silent Rain), Reika Kirishima (Godzilla: Final Wars, Norwegian Wood), Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon, Sonia Yuan (Summer’s Desire [TV series], The Island ), Ahn Hwitae, and Perry Dizon (Verdict, Crossfire). It is directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, Happy Hour), who also wrote the screenplay with Takamase Oe (The Naked Director [TV series], Koi no tsuki [TV series]).
A stage actor and director (Nishijima) sparks a friendship with his assigned company driver (Miura) as he copes with the passing of his wife two years prior.
A three hour picture on death, suffering, and forgiveness from Japan. What a way to spend a Thursday night.
“Drive My Car” tells the story of a playwright being contracted to put on a show by a company, while he simultaneously deals with the passing of his wife two years prior through interactions with his assigned driver. It’s cinematography, music, and theme embody what most Japanese pictures do: poetry. Life is explored in the essence of grief, and despite the story not holding anything grandiose, it manages to hold my interest for the entirety of its three-hour lifespan.
What intrigued me most about this picture was how out-of-the-box it felt. A man catches his wife cheating on him. He doesn’t bring it up. And when she asks to speak with him (presumably about this incident), she is found dead from a brain hemorrhage that evening. It’s wild stuff, particularly because he never said anything about it for two years; and in this exploration, we find out why. Outside of that, simply watching this man’s process of telling stories on the stage makes for quality entertainment. He pulls together people who speak different languages to perform a show where none of them can understand each other; it’s only by their physicality and emotion that each actor can connect.
I’ll admit it: quite a bit of this went over my head. Not in the sense that it’s confusing, but in that it’s poetry is felt even though it’s not entirely understood/ingested. This could be due to me watching it incredibly late at night (my mind goes numb around eleven o’clock), but in the moments of pure grief and sadness, I didn’t feel too much. I understood it was there, I just didn’t resonate with it. This journey that our two main characters take holds many beautiful moments. I just wish I felt fully invested.
It could take some rewatching, though I’m not confident I’ll dip my toe back into “Drive My Car.” Primarily because it’s long, but also because I have an insane film quota to meet each month (leaving my free time to only see movies I haven’t reviewed). Regardless, I recognize this film for what it is. The dissection of human connection surpassing language is interesting, as is the story of our main character confronting what he left behind. You don’t see many simple tales like this that focus on a deep theme. Whenever they come by, you’ve gotta latch on and ride it out. And for three hours, I was engaged.
“Drive My Car” paints the beauty of cinema. I loved seeing the creation of our lead’s stage play, and the themes explored are recognizably moving. I only wish I was as moved as I wanted to be. This isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. It’s long, subtle, and can be a bit too out-there to truly grasp. But if you’re willing to stick with it, you won’t be disappointed. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: