The film deserves more nominations than it has received, especially a Best Supporting Actress nod to Park who is very excellent in her performance.
‘Drive My Car review’
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Many parts of language are universal no matter how complex the language is; more importantly, all languages have themes that can be presented in a visual medium. Many plays and musicals are performed around the world in a variety of languages and recently, there were a few films that implemented sign language and made it part of the story like Sound of Metal and Eternals.
They can also modernize them to make them resonate with more people which was the case for Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s breakthrough film Drive My Car. Based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, the film earned three awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year including the Jury Prize and Best Screenplay for Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe’s script. It could be on track to get not only Best International Film at the Academy Awards this year but maybe also Best Picture mirroring the success of Parasite.
Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) frequently rehearses for Uncle Vanya in his Saab 900 Turbo. After his flight to a theatre festival is cancelled, he goes back to his apartment finding his wife, Oto (Reika Kirishima), having an affair with her friend Koshi (Masaki Okada). Two years after Oto passes away, Yusuke is offered to direct a production of the play in an international play festival in Hiroshima while a driver named Misaki (Toko Miura) escorts him during his time in the city.
He casts a diverse lineup of actors including a deaf girl named Yoon-a (Park Yoo-rim) playing Sonya and Koji as Vanya. With a running time of almost three hours, the film is presented in three acts. The first act is a prologue where we do not see the opening titles until almost an hour into the film.
Although, One Cut of the Dead had a similar opening where we see the special within the film before the opening titles are shown. The second act shows Yusuke and his cast working and developing how they are going to present a new interpretation of the play and the last act puts everything together with a few surprises. The long-running time also made it as if I was watching a play comparable in length to the entirety of Uncle Vanya.
There were also long scenes with conversations where the director makes you feel present with them through minimal cuts. You still feel Oto’s presence when Yusuke rehearses in the car. We also see a lot of aerial shots of Hiroshima and Tokyo when Yusuke’s car is driven around and sometimes goes on a loop. The film deserves more nominations than it has received, especially a Best Supporting Actress nod to Park Yoon-a who is very excellent in her performance.
Instead of everyone in Drive My Car talking in one language, they talk in a specific language when needed or someone translates what someone says. But the story of an actor getting his revenge after his wife’s affair is still understandable no matter what language you are fluent in. I hope it gets a Criterion Collection release when it is released on Blu-ray.