Drive My Car Review - A Poignant Journey, Masterful Storytelling, A Must See

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Drive My Car, from Bitters End, presents an emotional story of love, loss, sorrow, and hope, through a recently widowed actor and director on a journey of recovery when he meets others also hiding heartbreak and grief.

  We meet Yusuke Kafuku, played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, and his wife, Oto, played by Reika Kirishima as the film opens. The two are passionately engaged in a sexual tryst. When we enter the story, their finish is punctuated with sexual stories, which Oto, a screenwriter, begins with a stream of consciousness story, which she neither remembers the next morning or finishes and after each encounter she seems to pick up exactly where she left off after the last encounter.


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The two, who seem to have it all, both well-known television writers, he is also an actor, playwright, and artistic director. Midway through act one we understand the seemingly hollowness of their actions, not long ago their daughter died. The two, who appear passionate about holding one to each other and the memories of their daughter, are lost, adrift. After we understand the heartbreaking loss, we understand the other behaviors which are red flag warnings. One day, Yusuke is left alone as his wife collapses from an aneurism and dies.

Two years later he is given the job as artistic director at a stage production of Chekov's "Uncle Vanya," in Hiroshima, Japan. When he arrives to meet with the theater team he is told, a mandatory perk of the job is a chauffeur. While he protests, the theatrical team explains, it is a perk but mandatory and if he refuses, he refuses the position.

The chauffer, Misaki Watari, played by Toko Miura, is boyish, sad and the sorrow she has yet to overcome is part of her wardrobe. It is a present as her jacket and ball cap. She is given the keys to his beloved Saab 900 and he is suddenly regulated to a passenger as moments of his life pass.


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The scenes move through the casting process, and as all expect Yusuke to play Uncle Vanya, they are surprised when he chooses renowned actor Koji Takatsuki, played by Masaki Okada, for the role. Unbeknownst to Koji, Yusuke returned home, one afternoon before his wife had died and witnessed the two in a passionate sexual encounter.

As we participate in the casting, we see the "auditions" and surprisingly a deaf actress is cast also. Soon, the film moves to the rehearsal stage. As Yusuke up's he pressure, his wife's former lover, Koji, grows edgy. Yusuke is driven home each night; his silent chauffer, Misaki, says nothing.

After one rehearsal name and his wife's lover go out for a drink, a recognized actor he become agitated when his picture is taken by a fan. Yusuke, attempts to calm him down, pays the bill and they leave. We see Koji, is relatable as someone who has it all, looks, a strong career, a fan base, an in demand, with all the good in his life, he is quick tempered, and his bad boy behaviors are forgiven by the studios as he is a box office draw.

The two, Yusuku and Koji, go out again for a drink and as it is with photogs who have a chance to snap a photo and possibly pay the rent, one stumbles upon Koji, and in an instant, he chases him and while we don't see, we understand something happened.

During this time both Yukusu and Misaki finally are able to get past the solid robe of sorrow that each of them have enveloped themselves and we travel around Hiroshima as she is instructed to drive. She breaks the silence by explaining she believes she killed her mother. Her survivor's guilt has made her believe something that is not true.

Days before the play is to open, the lead, Koji, is arrested for beating the photographer who since died. With the decision in the balance Yukusu tell Misaki to drive to her town, a lifetime away from Hiroshima.


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Drive My Car is exceptional. With a three-hour runtime, the film moves surprisingly quickly, and draws the viewer into the story initially from the passion of the lovers, and then into the heart of the film where for some unknown reason; chance, happenstance, kismet, or fate, these two hollowed shells have been placed together.

A masterfully written, compassionate, journey delivers as we see one survivor of heartache able to help another, the director has created an emotional chain of humanity that tries to enlighten, to pass down wisdom, care, concern, hope.

Winner of Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, Drive My Car also earned Best International Feature at Gotham Film Awards. Drive my Car has been embraced by the world earning global recognition and awards. It was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and is nominated for Best International Feature at the 2022 Independent Spirit Awards.


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Country: Japan.

Language: Japanese with English subtitles.

Runtime: 179minutes.

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

Writer: Takamasa Oe, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, adapted from Haruki Murakami short story of the same name.

Producer: Tsuyoshi Gorô, Misaki Kawamura, Osamu Kubota, Sachio Matsushita, Yoshito Nakabe, Keiji Okumura, Jin Suzuki, Akihisa Yamamoto.

Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Park Yoo-rom, Jin Dae-yeon, Sonia Yuan.

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