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Film Review: Drive My Car (2021)

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Kelaru & Fulton rating: ★★★★

Available on Prime Video | Runtime: 2hrs 59mins

 

Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi delivers yet another emotionally resonating tale of love, grief and acceptance with his 2021 film Drive My Car, winner of Best International Feature Film at the Oscars. And while the nearly 3-hour runtime may seem daunting, the film rewards patience with a meditative pace, powerful silences and restrained performances that speak volumes.

At the center of it all is stage actor Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who is happily married to his screenwriter wife Oto (Reika Kirishima). But when Oto suddenly passes away, Yusuke is left grappling with her betrayals and his own feelings of guilt and sadness.

Two years later, Yusuke accepts an offer to direct a multilingual production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. There he meets his assigned chauffeur, the taciturn Misaki (Toko Miura), and the two soon develop an unlikely bond despite their painful pasts.

The talented international cast breathe life into their roles through nuanced performances. Nishijima is superb as the emotionally damaged Yusuke while Miura displays remarkable range despite limited dialogue.

But the true star is Hamaguchi’s deft direction and screenplay which delivers an absorbing character study. He fearlessly tackles heavy themes with a light touch and sympathetic eye.

Drive My Car is a feast for the senses. The stunning cinematography juxtaposes Japan’s scenic landscapes with emotionally bare interiors. The eclectic soundtrack and near constant engine hum adds additional texture.


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