Film Review: Drive My Car (2021)

Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film Drive My Car is one of the most haunting films about grief, art imitating life and the mystery of human beings that I have ever seen. Based on the short story of the same name my one of the great authors Murakami, the slow burn plot follows the journey of a screenwriter/actor mourning the recent death of his wife who is directing a play of Uncle Vanya and through a growing bond with his young female driver simultaneously comes to terms with his wife’s death and uncovers mysteries she left behind. The film is very long, almost 3 hours, though never feels unnecessary, each scene building slowly towards a profound conclusion that brought me to tears. As an adaptation of a short story the film’s power is less in its visuals and more in its dialogue, slowly revealing itself like a novel. Ryusuke cleverly intertwines the lines from Uncle Vanya into the narrative as the main character rehearses the lines via a tape in the car. As the production of the play takes places the lines from the play seem to mirror the interior lives of characters in the film. Chekhov’s play is not for the faint heart and grapples with the mysteries and suffering of life as much as the film does. In reserved Japanese emotions we incrementally peel away layers of meaning to get a portrait of heartbreak, of love and of living on after the death of a loved one. Epic in its scope and study of human emotions the final destination will confront you with hard truths as it comforts you with wisdom. This is a long film full of mysteries to solve and hidden meanings to analyse. The film makes you work as a viewer, but if you submit yourself to its runtime and enigma the reward is profound. With Sonyas monologue from Uncle Vanya, one of the most profound and moving in all literate, as an epitaph to the film we come to terms with our suffering and sorrow: ‘And when our final hour comes, we shall meet it humbly, and there beyond the grave, we shall say we know suffering and tears, that our life was bitter. And God will pity us. And then dear, dear Uncle we shall enter on a bright and beautiful life. We shall rejoice and look back upon our grief here. A tender smile – and we shall rest’. One of the best films of the year 10/10

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