Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★½

With a prologue that lasts nearly an hour and the remainder of the runtime devoted to rehearsals of a multilingual production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, Drive My Car is in no rush to tell its story. All Ryusuke Hamaguchi asks of us to come for a ride with its characters, take in their experiences of the world, and draw connections between its many moving parts. It is, at all times, an engaging and deeply moving experience. There's just so much weight and density to every encounter, both joyous and sad (which are, it should come as no surprise, not always easy to pull apart). A very ordinary dinner scene almost destroyed me after a character responds to an especially kind comment by ducking out of frame. The camera stays with the dinner table, smiles all around as something mysterious begins to happen just off screen. It’s a perplexing moment. My heart was pounding. Then, slowly, Hamaguchi pans down to reveal an everyday act of affection. So much of the movie concerns exactly this sense of destabilization: the negotiation of the abyss between how we see people and who they might really be. Grief, communication, knowledge of the self and the other—each of these ideas is layered over this problem, yet none is so dominant as to crowd out the others. Catharsis comes, but all the messy, meaningful work happens on the road.

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