Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

It's a wonderful and penetrating film about walking out from the blues of the loss of one's beloved, at times reminding me of one of the best of its kind, Maborosi (1995). But Drive My Car has more to offer - it is also Hamaguchi Ryūsuke's skilful but loose adaptation of Murakami's titular short story from the collection Men Without Women (2014). I am hardly a Murakami's fan, but I still know that he is an avid reader of Chekhov's works. In comparison to his short stories, Chekhov, I would say, is stronger in his plays than his short stories. I had watched a local theatrical adaptation of Uncle Vanya before, and it was bloody boring (most modernist works are as they are psychological, instead of social realist, like Austen and Dickens). Most characters of Chekhov are stuck, e.g. in their situation and in their past, so in this sense, the protagonist and his driver resonate perfectly with the theme of the play.

But it's more than a story about traumatised people walking out from their ambivalent pasts entangling with their loved ones, be they mother (the driver), wife (the protagonist), or the mute girl (who had a miscarriage). A bunch of traumatised people coming together is also a common Japanese film motif, as in Shoplifters (2018). Like its reference to Chekhov, a modernist playwright, Drive My Car also thematises epiphany (sudden but crucial realisation in daily lives), and therefore "coming-of-(mental) age."

The husband/protagonist and the driver are reserved when traumatised, until they gradually come to terms with their grief (or self-pity, or stuck like Chekhovian characters) by *understanding* the difficulties of those who inflict trauma on them - may be the wife was not a perfect human being (that doesn't exist), or the violent (single-parent and financially struggling) mother also had her repressed difficulties - from that moment on, they can let their own grief go, because they are humbled. They aren't the only ones who struggled. Simply put - one grows a bit when one stretches and if we can look at the big picture, we know how minor our grief is.

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