Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★½

I'd like to say this story exists in a world more perfect than ours, but it doesn't. The truth is that it simply knocks you over the head with its optimism. You can never fully know another person's heart, you can never get complete closure, and people are constantly ripped away from each other. But I'll be damned if the world doesn't keep forcing us together anyway, pushing us back down the path of life. And in the end, despite all of the imperfections, it will be okay. I'm sure.
So much symbolism here, so many recurring ideas, so many things that make this film feel more supernaturally oriented than it is. Soft musical cues, droning ambient noises, perfect visual centers and astonishing camera positions, all carefully combined to heighten the emotional effect of every moment. And yet, despite this, there's not a single line here that sounds unnatural. No sudden explication of emotions, no surprising twists revealed just to keep the plot running. The film isn't afraid to take its time with things, and when a few scenes of small talk or daily life are what's needed to make a key sequence work, the film doesn't shy away at all. In fact, it embraces these calmer segments, often turning them into symbolic or microcosmic versions of the characters' greater troubles., or cutting deep into a person's daily worldview in order to flesh out their motivations just a bit more.
And that's what makes the film truly great, how it balances life's linear flow with all of the characters' grief and internal turmoil. No matter how much or how little occurs, each day leads steadily into the next. Even if you haven't made any real progress, the day still closes after twenty-four hours. And even if one day changes your life, it's gone when the clock hits twelve. You're forced to move along even if you're struggling, even if you don't feel like you can. And with that in mind, you can always think confidently that things will get better.
The opening act of the film had me captivated simply because of how unstable it was, the fleeting nature of Oto's art, the deception in her and Yu's relationship. When the act ends in its heartbreakingly abrupt way, Yu still doesn't know exactly why she did the things she did. He still hasn't seen into the darkest depths of the heart.
She clearly loved him, yet she still lied to him. The two exist in tandem, and yet, Yu still struggled to understand how. The thought haunts him in her absence; "if I had just tried a little harder when she was here, could I have seen why she did the things she did? Could I have helped?"
He gets frustrated over even the smallest reminder of her --a young new driver chauffeuring him the same way she used to-- and objects to any change that could diminish her lasting impact on him, even if that impact's what's keeping him from moving on. That's what makes it so satisfying when he finally opens up about his wife, his experiences, his past. Suddenly, he isn't so alone in the more. Suddenly, there's a new value to living.
He steadily moves on, forming relationships with people who care for him, and that need his care in return. He lives with the door to his past open, but stops trying to run back into it. It doesn't need to be closed, it's behind him anyway, it doesn't matter. The present is here and the future is inching closer. New relationships take the place of old ones whether you were ready for them or not. Such is the way of the world.
When closure finally comes to him through Koshi (a character who is, ironically, suddenly ripped away from the narrative almost immediately after as well), it's only once he's learned to help himself. Because the truth wasn't anything he couldn't have figured out himself from the start. She loved him, she lied to him, and there wasn't any reason for doing either. She was just.. flawed. Hypocritical. A slave to her own unique emotions. There's no rationalization that could've made everything make sense and there's nothing he could have done to help.
And now that she's gone, there's nothing to do but turn around, set his eyes forward, and embrace the new circumstances life has found him in. Remember the love she gave him, love her for who she was, and use the memories to help others. Love the past, but not so much that it keeps you from seeing the future. Because the world keeps forcing us together again, starting us once again down the path of life. And in the end, despite everything we'll never be able to get over, despite everything we've lost, it will be okay. I'm sure.

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