Thursday, March 31, 2022

Drive My Car: Not your average road movie


Japanese language ‘Drive My Car’ has earned a very well-deserved Academy Award for Best International Foreign Film 2022. The writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has finely crafted this monumental take on the journey towards self-understanding, exploring love, loss, grief and guilt along the way. It is based on Haruki Murakami short stories, a surprise given its 2 hour 59 minutes duration. 
Film critic Douglas Laman has explored how Hamguchi and co-writer Takamasa Oe have interwoven two famous plays, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Anton Chekkov’s Uncle Vanya, into the characters’ inner lives:
'In leaning on a work of the past like Uncle Vanya, Drive My Car excels on countless levels, including in finding a way to capture the interior voices of characters who refuse to overtly communicate.'
Hidetoshi Nishijima, as stage actor and director Yūsuke Kafuku, gives a first-class performance which is complemented by an outstanding cast. It is a truly international gathering, especially the ensemble required for the multi-lingual Uncle Vanya production. In addition to Japanese, the actors use Korean, Korean sign-language, Mandarin and English.
The car, a red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo, is a character itself. When Kafuku directs a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima, his assigned driver, Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura), is an unlikely confessor as they share their personal nightmares and confront the past.
Perhaps the most graphic scene is when she takes him to the garbage plant where she worked as a truck driver.
Don’t be scared away by the three hours length or the deep exploration of emotions and identity. The vehicle of acting to tell the story should sweep you along as smoothly as Misaki’s driving.