Drive My Car Review

Remarkable, how a short story can be stretched to this length. It is inspiring to see that Drive My Car and director Ryusuke Hamaguchi are willing to unsettle audiences for a boastful and braggadocious three-hour piece. Uncles and introverts, careers and death, all of it makes so much more sense when imagined by Hamaguchi and his adaptation of Men Without Women. His detonation of grief is stunning. No wonder he picked up three awards at Cannes Film Festival for this grief and deceit-threaded narrative. It is a shock to the system and a welcome one at that. Despite the three-hour running time, Drive My Car hopes to jolt its audiences awake with stunning presentations of character dynamics, incredible cinematography and the bittersweet necessity of a drawn-out story worthy of its long journey.

It is the clarity of which Hamaguchi has faith in that stirs Drive My Car on. His infiltration of Samuel Beckett, for the brief moments that adaptation of Waiting for Godot appears, is marvellous. Those moments that follow, the slow realisation of an affair, the shattering impact this has on Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and the inevitable growth from such a shock. Drive My Car bides its time and reaps the rewards of showing a man and his derided passion. An empty shell creative is no surprise for this genre, but it is the flow of dialogue and the keen eye Hamaguchi has behind the camera that turns the wheels of this one. The losses and the grief-stricken artists that can’t cobble together their next piece for heartbreak and sorrow are overwhelming them. Affairs, loss and a renewal of life in an unlikely barrage of changes for a man set in glum routine make Drive My Car that much better.

Sex is used as an implement of creation and driving as a conduit for piecing together a past calamity. Drive My Car is poetic with its inclusion of relative simplicity in the face of complex desires and needs from its leading character. They are repressed because of guilt and the grieving process of a sudden change in living. Those two emotions are tied to one another, undoubtedly so, but it is the craftsmanship on show from Hidetoshi Nishijima that diffuse that elaborate spectacle. Characters bonded by grief can overcome it with help from one another. It is how they do so and the time taken to get to that clear conscience that Hamaguchi toys with so well.

Slow and methodical, Drive My Car gives the audience plenty of time to learn and grow along with these characters. Hamaguchi is keen to promote that learning and growing in unison with the characters, rather than independently. When Yūsuke feels grief that haunts him, the audience feels it with him for the first time. It is that lack of distinction, of where acting can take a role as simple as this to emotive heights. A love of the road certainly helps those entering into Drive My Car without much thought on where these characters will spend their time. It is that attachment to the free-thinking emptiness of the open road that guides these characters not just toward each other, but on the path towards an emotional clarity they failed to realise for themselves.

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