Drive My Car

  • 11 Dec - 17 Dec, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Yûsuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a successful actor and theatre director who specialises in experimental multilingual productions with surtitles. He has a complex relationship with his wife Oto (Reika Kirishima), a successful writer and TV dramatist.

The couple learn that Yûsuke is in danger of losing the sight in one eye – he later learns with a shock that this has changed the short story that she was working on – but this perhaps makes it easier for him to accept that he will need a driver for his trusty Saab 900 when he later directs a new revival of his Vanya production at an arts festival in Hiroshima, a city that is photographed with crisp unsentimentality. Things are complicated by a devastating event in Oto’s life, and Yûsuke being confronted with proof that she had been having an affair with a handsome and disreputable young actor and celebrity called Kôji (Masaki Okada). For complex reasons, he casts this same bumptious Kôji in the lead role for Vanya for his revival, assuring the actor calmly that makeup will cover the age difference, and responds readily but with cool reserve when Kôji keeps saying he wants to talk to him over a drink after rehearsals. This strange duel between the two men is happening alongside Yûsuke’s growing relationship with his driver Misaki (Tôko Miura) whose professional reticence evolves into something else when he starts confessing his anguish to her – prompted by the fact that he likes to play a certain cassette in the car: the voice of his wife running his lines for Vanya.

And all the time, Misaki is growing in importance, and in the film’s extraordinary final section, her story is told; a story that need not thematically dovetail with everything that has gone before, other than to show us once again, that other people’s lives are complicated and withheld, and that we are being arrogant if we think that we know everything there is to know about the people that we meet.

Drive My Car is an expansion of a short story. Yûsuke, Oto, Kôji and Misaki are living their own stories, and the drama superimposes and overlaps them like a Venn diagram. And there is something very moving when we close in on one particular tale, one life. It is an engrossing and exalting experience.