Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★½

For many films, emotion is the essence of, and that which is coaxed from, a character. They get to be dramatic, expressive, impassioned, perhaps displaying their scene-chewing abilities from time to time.

For Hamaguchi, it's the opposite. His characters are so restrained, so mundane, so subdued in their expressions, that for a long time it just seems like you're watching a well-filmed documentary. People talk at a dinner table like the way your quiet family would with unexpected guests, the way your professor would calmly explain a student's mistakes, the way you'd make tentative and unobjectionable small talk while riding in a stranger's car. There's nothing spectacular or sensational about any of the characters in Hamaguchi's films, but that's also exactly what makes them so powerful; they exist primarily not as characters in a story, but as people in life, people who exist independent of everyone else and understand everyone's got their own story, their own pains. Baring one's soul to another is perhaps a bit selfish, an act that assumes the self-importance of one's experience over the other. Their deep, complex emotions are hidden in plain sight, just beneath the veil of pleasantries they all wear, so much restraint is shouldered by each person, such that the eventual catharsis is so affective when they finally lift the veil and expose the emotions worn on their face.

For it's so much more powerful when two people, after being unable to truly communicate for the entire time they've known each other, can speak, face-to-face and heart-to-heart, and see not just the human body in front of them but the human soul inside. It's rarely about the language that's used, but the physicality instead.

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