Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car – the second marvelous adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short stories in nearly as many years, after Lee Chang-dong’s ravishing and breathtaking Burning in 2018 – was a sumptuous, meditative and leisurely paced exploration of grief, memory, art, performance, deceit and being trapped to one’s past, through an immaculate restraint and understated melodrama. At its heart was an enigmatic and gradually unfolding friendship between two lost souls who couldn’t be further apart – in their socioeconomic backgrounds, dispositions and life’s choices – and yet bound by the complex, painful and unreconciled memories that they carry of someone they profoundly loved, on occasions hated, never fully understood, tragically lost and doomed to forever be haunted by. Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a renowned theatre director and veteran thespian who had an enigmatic marriage to the incredibly alluring and accomplished film screenwriter Oto (Reika Kirishima) – she would craft beguiling stories during coitus, made extensive cassette recordings to help Kafuku rehearse his lines while driving his cherished cherry-red Saab 900, and they loved each other deeply despite her chronic infidelity – and hence her unexpected death leaves him lonelier than ever. Two years later, upon accepting a theatre project that requires him to relocate to Hiroshima for a couple of months – in order to direct a multi-lingual adaptation of Chechov’s Uncle Vanya – he ends up forming a quietly fascinating bond with Misaki (Tōko Miura), a young, aloof and taciturn girl employed as his chauffeur, and they together embark on a liberating road trip. Gorgeously photographed, meticulously staged, suffused with repressed emotions and lingering melancholy, and filled with a few other intriguing characters too, this 3-hour film was at once expansive, immersive and intimate.
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Road Movie