George Clark’s review published on Letterboxd:
When it comes to loosing someone, experiencing grief at the forefront of ones mind, I have no experience. Luckily for me I’ve never lost anyone close to me, I don’t know how I’d react, would it be to slump into a sober state or become an emotional wreck, I guess no one ever knows till they’re hit by it. That’s what makes Drive My Car both immensely beautiful yet somewhat alienated for me personally.
Taking 40 minutes to fully open your film can be a challenge to many filmmakers, hell it’s 40 minutes before the title sequence finally drops, but it’s one that allows Drive My Car to really thrive. Opening it up to a story that, while prolonged, feels nothing less than whole, complete at telling what it wanted to, giving you the experience of grief whether that be infidelity, death, trauma or even forgiveness, perfectly throughout. Its these themes and the subtleties of the story tackling them that truly work well for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. The way he conveys his themes through subtle actions, words and looks are a masterstroke of both acting and directing, keying into what it must be like to grieve so calmly yet feel so torn up inside.
The performance at its centre, Hidetoshi Nishijima, surely deserved an Oscar nomination for his beautiful portrayal. He fully commands the screen, bouncing of every performer while creating a character you truly care come the films end. You feel how much he cares for his wife while ultimately knowing how he was so torn up by everything that occurred before and after her death. That’s something that’s hard to convey on screen. Many films have dealt with death and grief in remarkable ways but Drive My Car feels different, more somber and subtle when compared and it’s thanks to these performances, the scrips they were given most of all, as to why the film works as well as it does.
Ultimately, with Drive My Car, Hamaguchi has crafted a rich, skilfully layered masterwork. The flawless performances and a script that honestly seems like a screenwriter's dream, are all wonderful and while personally it was a tad to long, it’s nonetheless a graceful film that sculpts Murakami's story into an enchanting three-hour epic with Nishijima masterful portrayal at its epicentre. It certainly won’t win over everyone but it sure does command respect. One of the best films 2021 has to offer.
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