Review: Drive My Car is a static conversational drama with a strong, well-crafted story

The relationship between an actor and his driver.

Yusuke Kafuku is a well-known Japanese actor and director whose biggest hobby is driving a car. Especially his red Saab 900. So he is not very happy when, during his engagement at the Hiroshima festival, he has to leave the wheel to the taciturn young driver Misaki. During and after the tests, however, they gradually discover that they have much more in common than a hobby in cars. Together they deal with their traumas and feelings of guilt and try to move on with their lives. And in the background of all this are rehearsals for Kafuk’s theatrical adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vani.

In Drive My Car, director and co-writer Ryusuke Hamaguchi tells a charming and profound story about human relationships and the pain they often entail.In Drive My Car, director and co-writer Ryusuke Hamaguchi tells a charming and profound story about human relationships and the pain they often entail. Hamaguchi’s adaptation of one of the famous Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s short stories is very impressive and immersive. However, it would be much livelier if it was a shorter hour.

The three-hour footage really hurts the film, which freezes it. As a result, the narrative is heavily static and drawn out, so it doesn’t hold constant attention. It doesn’t help that the plot is heavily based on deep, well-written dialogue (despite the fact that they deal with interesting ideas), but due to the dead end of the footage, they are sometimes tiring for the viewer and difficult to focus on them.

Story-wise, Hamaguchi’s work is well-written, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least partially cut it. It’s still a successful show. The strongest is undoubtedly the last third, when, as spectators, we will experience emotional outbursts from the main characters, whose representatives really give everything at this moment. Hidetoshi Nishijima and Toko Miura deliver powerful performances throughout the film, giving their characters much-needed depth. Together they gradually build their relationship, through which we gradually get to know their characters.

The rest of the cast, who together form a well-coordinated team, also do a quality job. It really does feel like watching a theater troupe rehearse a new show, thanks to the performances of its representatives and the overall realistic style in which this story is conveyed. While the scenes between Kafuk and Misiko are more interesting than Uncle Vani’s ongoing training, it’s understandable why this story is there and the parallel between him and the main story is clear.

Moreover, there is also an impressive minimalist and clean visual side, which supports the overall subtlety of the show (this is also highlighted by the graceful musical accompaniment of Eiko Ishibashi). The camera work, knowing when and how to focus on which characters and what to display, is great too. In short, you know that this is a well-made film, for which there is no doubt that it received so many nominations, including those for the Oscars. That it’s the first Japanese film and the first Japanese director to receive this honor is surprising, but certainly (despite the minor shortcomings mentioned) deserved.

Drive My Car is simply an impressive and enjoyable conversational drama, which is damaged by just three hours of footage and static action. In addition, however, Hamaguchi offers a strong and well-crafted story, which relies above all on the two main characters and their representatives, who really give their all (especially in the emotionally charged last third). It’s so good that thanks to this film, Japanese cinema finally takes more space, which it undoubtedly deserves.

Join the trio, please!

(Photo: Aerofilms)

Oops, that looks like a small scratch…

drive my car
(Photo: Aerofilms)

Jesus, that man can’t park there at all!

drive my car
(Photo: Aerofilms)

Drive my car / Doraibu mai kâ

Drive My Car is simply an impressive and enjoyable conversational drama, which is damaged by just three hours of footage and static action. In addition, however, Hamaguchi offers a strong and well-crafted story, which relies above all on the two main characters and their representatives, who really give their all (especially in the emotionally charged last third). It’s so good that thanks to this film, Japanese cinema finally takes more space, which it undoubtedly deserves.

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