Mike Apps🍿’s review published on Letterboxd:
Doubts and insecurities obtained from a failing marriage between a theatre actor/director and a screenwriter. The couple bonds by crafting stories during sex as a way to cope with the loss of their child. The actor/director's regrets over words not said before the screenwriter dies from a sudden terminal illness......and that's all before the opening credits roll! This is all in under 40 minutes, so you know this is gonna be a film that takes it's time to arrive at what its driving at - literally and figuratively!
A lot of Drive My Car is about space; about routine and the mundane; about what is supposed to happen not happening; about characters not saying what we would expect them to say. This is about silence speaking louder than any dialogue could. The text is so spacey for us to internalize the history and lives of each character, it's so sublime!
So much happens in the titular car of our actor/director and the new driver he hires to commute to work. The space inhabited by driver and passenger in the car (a Saab) is divided. Even though we don't see all of the car as it moves, we know where the characters in it are emotionally and psychologically.
Seeing as this is a film about performance, introspection, tragedy and grief, there's a play subplot that is integral to the actor/director. The play itself is multilingual - Japanese, Chinese and Korean actors not understanding each other, but we infer meaning from body language and voice of each nationality. There's a deaf actor in the play, but they aren't portrayed as lacking anything, rather contributing to the play. I love how the film normalizes it, without sensationalizing it.
The film could have ended with the director/actor's play receiving crowd applause, as a perfect bookend. But it still goes on into a coda ending of sorts. The coda doesn't really fit, but it is important thematically and even imbues further meaning into the title 'Drive My Car'. It shouldn't work, but it belongs and I loved how it wrapped up a certain character's conclusion.
I'm being deliberately vague about Drive My Car because it's not so simple conveying why it works. This is a film for Kiarostami fans; a constant emotion fueling and defining a main character. The actor/director literally tells another actor to yield themselves to the script of the play. It's the film saying if you give it your full patience, you'll come out of it like you've been on a heavy journey and you'll be rewarded upon reaching the destination.
Between this and Titane, what is it with my fav 2021 movies tying cars with desire and trauma!