By Clay Thompson | Reporter
“Drive My Car” is a film about a journey, not a destination. Though it is a very long journey — clocking in at around two hours and 59 minutes — it still feels like no second is wasted in the film, creating a semi-peaceful tone with subdued emotionality brimming underneath the surface.
Based on a short story by famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, “Drive My Car” is a story about a man overseeing a production of the play “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima while he deals with past trauma and how his interactions with the people in the production, most notably his assigned driver, impact the life he now lives.
The acting in the film by all involved was superb, but the two standout performances were the two leads, Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura. Their chemistry felt natural as the two bonded over their car rides with each other, slowly growing to know one another better and growing closer with each ride. As they grow closer, the audience gets more details about their lives and struggles, which ultimately deepens their relationship and their pull as meaningful characters in the film.
The cinematography and lighting of the film also have to be commended, as each scene — whether it was the old red Saab 900 winding its way through the streets of Hiroshima, or the actors in the play rehearsing their lines — felt compelling. The film continually drew viewers in with a light and colorful visual pallet without distracting from what was going on.
What I liked most about the film is it never treats the audience as stupid. It begins by dropping viewers in the deep end, starting at a seemingly random moment with no explanation or set up for the story, then slowly reveals and peels back the layers of the characters and story so that by the end, audiences are more satisfied they can finally see the big picture.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the director of the film, has done a wonderful job coordinating and putting together all the good elements that make this film great. The acting, the camerawork, the themes and the format all work together so seamlessly to create a film that’s very long, but worth every minute. It not only sends the protagonist on a journey, but the audience as well — a visual journey that I believe paid off in spades.