Review: Drive My Car - A (Horse)powerful experience

What exactly is this Japanese gem that seems to be taking the film world by storm? Read our review to find out!

George Bell
11th January 2022
Credit: IMDb
I can’t drive. A car has never been something of a priority for me or something I’ve ever been interested in and in all honesty, stressed me out beyond belief. At least that was until I watched Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car
Tôko Miura in Drive My Car, Credit: IMDb

Based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami, Drive My Car follows an ageing actor Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who is forced to take on a chauffeur, Misaki (Ttoko Miura) while directing a stage play. Across the countless drives they undertake, the two bond, and Yusuke is given a chance to reflect on the death of his wife.

While this is an interesting concept by itself (it got me to see it!), it barely scratches the surface of what this film really is. Drive My Car may have this overarching story but it contains within it a plethora of smaller tales that are really beautiful. But these short stories are completely secondary and portrayed only via word of mouth, with the exception of the penultimate play. This method of giving the audience a narrative should come across as tedious and lazy but thanks to the stellar writing and the sublime acting this is never the case.

Masaki Okada as Koji Takatsuki, Credit: IMDb

The characters come across as quite mundane but that only makes them so relatable and engaging. Their realistic portrayal and the stories they tell are what truly keep the audience engaged across an admittedly quite daunting three-hour runtime. A personal standout for me was Masaki Okada's Koji Takatsuki, a young member of the cast with a dark secret that just oozes something sinister whenever he is on the screen.

I will be honest though, with all these characters and stories being told, some of the plot threads never really get explored as much as they deserved and leave more than a few questions left unanswered. Hopefully, a rewatch will unearth some answers and add another layer of excellence to this film, but that would make me need to put aside another three hours.

This film combines so many different languages in a natural and effective way

Drive My Car does so much to marry different kinds of narrative within this one tale and I think the reason it works so well is through how multilingual it is. I’ve watched a fair few foreign-language films (but still so many yet to see!) and this was the best example to date of combining so many different languages in a natural and effective way. The spoken language jumps between Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, English and even some Korean Sign Language. This is a perfect example of Parasite (2019) director Bong Joon Ho’s now-iconic quote “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films” as this spoken tale is just as much of a written tale that was a pleasure to experience.

Move aside Lightning McQueen, there is a new red car in town and you should absolutely check it out in Drive My Car.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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