Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, “Drive My Car” masterfully weaves together storylines in a film about loss and learning to live with grief and guilt.


Director(s) Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Screenplay By Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Takamasa Oe

Date Released November 24, 2021

MArch 2nd, 2022 (HBO Max)

Where To Watch In Theaters
Genre(s) Drama

Non-English

Duration 2h 59m
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Cast
Yusuke Kafuku Hidetoshi Nishijima
Misaki Watari Toko Miura
Oto Kafuku Reika Kirishima
Koji Takatsuki Masaki Okada
Lee Yoon-a Yoo-rim Park

Film Summary

Although stage actor Yusuke and TV writer Oto Kafuku’s marriage is far from perfect, her unexpected death devastates Yusuke, who blames himself for not returning home sooner on the day of Oto’s death.

Three years later, Yusuke is still trying to process that loss while directing a multilingual adaptation of Chekhov’s play “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima.

Play rehearsals

Among the play’s cast is Oto’s former lover Takatsuki, an impulsive young man and former TV star mired in scandal, whose conversations with Yusuke provide further insight into Oto’s character. Yoo-rim Park also gives a breakout performance as the mute Korean actress Lee Yoon-a, proving that spoken dialogue is not always necessary for effective storytelling.

The second protagonist is Misaki Watari, Yusuke’s chauffeur during his artistic residency and a stoic young woman who earns Yusuke’s respect for her skill in driving the eponymous red Saab 900 car. Misaki’s own complex backstory unravels through the shared long commutes with Yusuke, revealing they may have more in common than it seems.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

  • Reason(s) for Film Rating: Nudity, simulated sex, smoking, drinking.

Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs

“What can we do? We must live our lives.”
— Oto Kafuku and Lee Yoon-a

Review

Highlights

All the Levels of Storytelling

It’s fitting that a film adapted from a short story would incorporate so many layers of storytelling. There’s the story Oto tells Yusuke about a high schooler stalking her crush combined with the story of “Uncle Vanya” told both through the rehearsal process as well as through Oto’s audiotape that Yusuke constantly plays in the car.

Characters from Drive My Car driving a car

Both these fictional stories give us a glimpse into the minds of the characters and provide a backdrop for the unraveling of Yusuke and Misaki’s narratives. There is so much to unpack in this intricately woven tapestry of stories – Drive My Car is sure to linger in your mind long after you’ve left the theater.

The Multilingual Adaptation of “Uncle Vanya” and Ideas on Communication

Most of the film takes place during the rehearsal period of “Uncle Vanya,” where we get to see Yusuke’s directorial vision of having actors perform the play in different languages. What starts off as an artistic curiosity develops throughout the film into a demonstration of how communication is not just about words, but also body language and voice intonation.

This style of communication is why Yusuke’s version of “Uncle Vanya” works. It’s also why characters from different nationalities can interact and develop relationships with each other off-stage (and why we as an audience can relate to foreign-language films).

On the flip side, it can be easy to rely too heavily on shared language for communication – something that the film hints at within Yusuke and Oto’s relationship. Although Yusuke believed they were both satisfied with their marriage, Takatsuki later casts doubt on Oto’s real feelings, suggesting that understanding each other’s words doesn’t always correlate to understanding each other.

On The Fence

A Lot of Conversation

There is certainly a lot of talking in this three-hour slow burn film. It requires a good amount of concentration (and reading), and director Ryusuke Hamaguchi invests significant screen time and backstory into most of the characters. If you have the patience to sit through all the dialogue, however, and you can keep all the background information straight, you are in for a rewarding experience.

Overall

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Two people holding cigarette in the air

Drive My Car, which has already won the Golden Globes for Best Non-English Picture, is an intense character study centering around grief and how we choose to live with loss. It’s a story within a story (adapted from a short story) that leaves audiences with much to think about long after the film is finished.

Movie Directory

An old school film reel drawn by artist Dean Nelson.

On The Radar


Ratings

  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
  • Ending Spoilers: Trying to remember how a film ended, or want a different take on the ending, then check out the "ending spoilers" category. 
Title Card - Drive My Car (2021)
Drive My Car (2021) – Review/Summary (with Spoilers)
Who is this for?
Fans of character studies or films exploring the artistic process and anyone interested in getting a head-start on the 2022 Oscar nominees
Highlights
All the Levels of Storytelling
The Multilingual Adaptation of “Uncle Vanya” and Ideas on Communication
Disputable
A Lot of Conversation
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Avatar of Sophie Underwood

Film and TV enthusiast who could talk about Marvel for days on end. My three main hobbies are binge-watching comically long video essays on Youtube, scouring the library for hidden cinematic gems, and taking naps with my two little dogs.

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