Drive My Car is a tough one for me to review. There’s a lot going on within it… but also seemingly very little? In fact, I’m not entirely sure what it was about, although that’s probably because I’m just a little bit stupid on occasion. Indeed, this is a very deep, inward-looking piece of cinema that seems to have touched many people but for whatever reason, I didn’t really love it. (Don’t shoot me).
The film focuses mainly on a stage actor and director who suddenly loses his wife to a brain haemorrhage and finds himself unable to love even two years later. Begrudgingly and after a lot of convincing, he agrees to direct an adaptation of Chekhov‘s Uncle Vanya at an upcoming theatre festival. As a result, he meets Misaki, who has been appointed as his driver during his employment in Hiroshima. Misaki gets more than she bargained for however, as she becomes privy to secrets and past confessions from our protagonist’s life when he plays recordings of his wife’s voice on their journeys.
You know when a movie just has interesting vibes? That’s what this one has. Pure vibes. As an overall film, there was a lot to like with Drive My Car. It just felt quite difficult to connect with for me personally.
So, whilst I can’t say I love this as much as most seem to, I can still appreciate why it’s been making some noise. In direct opposition to my previous choice of words, Drive My Car is such a quiet film. It’s not loud and packed full of action, but is instead very pensive, meditative and slow. Not only does it explore the meaning of life but it also looks at grief, loss, humanity and morality in a really deep yet subtle way. I get it. I just wanted more of an established, interesting plot, I think?
Connected to that, in a way, is the fact that it’s clear that Drive My Car is intentionally very character-based, rather than being plot-based. My personal taste is a focus on story more heavily than character, but I will say that each performance is wonderful. Hidetoshi Nishijima specifically as the lead does a fantastic job, appearing in almost every scene and remaining incredibly nuanced throughout.
Why do I give this 4 Qs then even though I wasn’t exactly bouncing of the walls with praise afterwards? There are so many aspects of the filmmaking itself that are truly brilliant. The score is calm and interesting, and was really one of the highlights for me. Not only that, but the direction is very, very good, and so much of the camerawork is really specific and creative. Technically speaking, Drive My Car is effortless.
Alas, I have to say that – in my personal opinion – this was clearly never going to be the Best Picture winner. I wouldn’t have been upset if Hamaguchi won Best Director, even if Campion was nailed on for months. On the whole, this is a very deeply emotive film with a beautiful aesthetic, even if its length did bother me towards the latter stages.
Drive My Car is available to stream on MUBI in the UK.
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