Drive My Car (2021)

June 11th, Movie 12

Today, I opened up HBO Max and watched one of the films that I have been waiting to watch for awhile. Drive My Car was getting a ton of buzz around Oscar time and it had become available on HBO Max around that time, and I really considered watching it then. However, I added it to the June Swoon list and decided to wait. Meanwhile, every time I looked at “My List” on HBO Max, there Drive My Car was looking right back at me.

Well, today was the day for the 3 hour Japanese film to finally get played. Was it worth the wait? Sure. Did it blow my mind? Not quite.

According to IMDB: “Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya at a theater festival in Hiroshima. There, he meets Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount amongst the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koshi Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection to Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins – with the help of his driver – to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind.

This film is a real character study mainly featuring Kafuku and Misaki, as the film goes deep into the loss and the grief they suffered and were having what was a difficult time getting past. Both characters were emotionally distant but would eventually bond over the Saab 900 and Misaki’s skill at driving the car. As time passes, they begin talking about their losses, able to put in words thoughts that had clearly been weighing on their mind.

While there were a few other characters in the film that were interesting, the main focus was on the director and the driver. There was a character who was one of the actors in the play who spoke with sign language. I found her to be a fascinating character and she was one of the earliest people who helped start the bonding between Kafuku and Misaki.

I’m not sure this needed to be three hours long, as it did feel its length. Still, it was beautifully shot and the performances were strong. Drive My Car won the Best International Feature Film Academy Award this year and I could see why. It also received a nomination for its director, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, though he did not win.

Drive My Car is available on HBO Max.

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