Drive My Car, 2021.
Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi.
Starring Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Masaki Okada, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon, Sonia Yuan, Ahn Hwitae, Perry Dizon, and Satoko Abe.
Yûsuke Kafuku is a stage actor and director happily married to his playwright wife. Then one day she disappears.
The prologue of Drive My Car is almost a movie entirely into itself, as the opening credits to this three-hour behemoth don’t begin until the 40-minute mark. However, it’s all necessary, as we are introduced to Yûsuke Kafuku and Oto (Hidetoshi Nishijima and Reika Kirishima, respectively), a married couple with individual ties to the film and TV industry. The relationship is also not as tight as they might believe, with Kafuku essentially in denial even one forced to witness devastating truths. On top of that, a vehicle accident in the titular red car has partially damaged his left eyesight, and a personal tragedy plunges him into grieving.
The story picks up with Kafuku traveling to plot a multi-language theatrical production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which ties to the inner pain in various ways. It’s not so much that one needs to be familiar with Chekhov to get the most value and meaning out of Drive My Car, but that writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (collaborating with Takamasa Oe, together spinning Haruki Murakami’s short story into a dramatic and emotionally compelling titan centered on loss, regret, betrayal, sex, and guilt) spends a bit too much time on the play itself as an allegory to the lives of these characters when the dialogues between them all are far more riveting.
Still, take Drive My Car for a spin; if you’re not enjoying herself past or the intrigue the lengthy prologue sets up, then you can tap out, but it’s difficult to imagine someone not taken aback by the poignant writing, rich themes, and everything eating away at these characters.
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com