By: Amanda Guarragi
Not many understand that words carry so much weight and have emotional depth when trying to connect with another human being. What Ryusuke Hamaguchi does in Drive My Car is create a connection to the creation of stories and where these words stem from. What inspires others to connect with the words flowing out of their mouth to emotionally connect a string of thoughts? The structure of this film explores the meaning of understanding the text, whether it is a screenplay or a story being formed in one’s mind. We meet an aging, widowed actor Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) who seeks a 20-year-old chauffeur Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura). Despite their initial misgivings, a very special relationship develops between the two.
The structure of this film is possibly one of the most impressive things about it, apart from the crisp cinematography and great soundtrack. The fact that Hamaguchi really took his time in telling this story without it feeling like it dragged on was impressive. We got to sit with these characters and understand where their pain stems from. Where their connection to their art and creativity is pulled from. It’s a cathartic way to express an actor’s journey especially when the play being performed is also a parallel to his own life. Within the first 40 minutes Kafuku experiences so much and it feels like when the opening credits role that the film is already over, meanwhile it had just begun. Hamaguchi shows the emptiness of an artist because of his grief and then has Kafuku find it elsewhere through teaching.
It is extremely hard to express oneself, especially after a traumatic event. It’s difficult to understand others and their emotions when you can hardly understand what you’re feeling inside. What begins as very internal performances by Nishijima and Miura becomes a very honest exchange of emotions between both actors through the reservation of their characters. The turning point of this film is when Kafuku and Watari meet Lee Yoon-a (Yoo-rim Park). There is a dinner scene that draws you in because her words are so powerful through her sign language. Which carries out into her performance in the play that Kafuku casts her in. Everything was set up perfectly by Hamaguchi, that every detail became important in order to understand Kafuku in his entirety by the end of the film. After meeting Lee Yoon-a, Kafuku then realizes that listening and understanding to the words being said by other people will help him connect to his own feelings.
Drive My Car is such a well-written film and has incredible dialogue that sets it apart from other films that came out in 2021. Even though the majority of the film takes place in the car, Hamaguchi also explores the power shift when it comes to control and how to slowly trust someone with the most intimate parts of you. It is a film that slowly creeps up on you and hits you when you least expect it. Each character had their own story and they were able to express themselves in different ways in order to connect with each of them. It’s a study of relationships and human connection through beautiful pieces of dialogue. Hamaguchi strips down these characters in order for them to heal and be reborn by the end of this film.