Drive My Car

Drive My Car ★★★★★

tw // death, suicidal ideation, self harm

“we must keep on living.” 

it’s admittedly the easiest line to pluck from its most quotable passages, but i do believe in bears some added significance in my case. to that point—though i thought i already would have—i hadn’t shed a single tear. instead, there had been a lump stamped into my throat, unmoved by gulping or my attempts to clear it. instead, there was a lingering tensity, not quite pain, but a perpetual and tangible weight. when that line came, the lump was released, and tears began to flow.

this past december marked the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing. in january, the eighth anniversary of my grandfather’s. i was sixteen at the time of my father’s death, old enough at the time to comprehend what death was, too young to understand what death meant, much less the processing of it. after so many years, the memories i carried of them—previously so vivid and textured—shriveled until only distillations of what they were in life remained, a collection of looping images and sounds all taken from the same scene. it becomes easier to project goodness onto them; i would have loved to live in a reality where my father got the chance to witness me grow into the woman i’ve always wanted to be, in spite of the likely transphobia conditioned by his catholic upbringing, but i can’t deny that it’s more cathartic to pretend he would’ve supported me without question. it’s not like he’s around to dispute that. 

it was on these anniversaries that i only just began processing those losses. it catalyzed a depressive spiral like i have never known before. as someone who generally calls out only twice a year, i began missing work every other day (i would go nearly four full months without completing a full week of work). when i did show up, i couldn’t go four hours without being paralyzed by a panic attack that left me crying and curled into a ball at my desk. when i was home alone, i spent my time to find new ways to punish myself for the debt i brought upon myself by missing so much work i had fallen behind on bills—for the pain i was feeling and my inability to combat it. my girlfriend had to hide the kitchen knives. when i wasn’t hurting myself, i was crying on the floor, wishing i could stop the hurt, wishing i knew where it was coming from. not long after those anniversaries, i was hospitalized for thoughts of suicide. i tried hard to look at it as a “necessary step” on the “path to healing” or whatever, but i just felt like a failure.

in the years since my first hospitalization, i thought i could manage a normal life for myself without medication. i thought i could manage my illnesses so efficiently as to make them nearly invisible. they gave me new pills, but it didn’t get better when i was discharged. the absences continued, and my job eventually let me go. i hit a wall in therapy, and my medications weren’t working. this is it, i couldn’t help but think. the bills aren’t stopping, and i don’t have the money to pay them. ending things would be easier than trying to endure whatever’s coming for me. 

my father passed nearly six years ago, but i don’t think the healing started until today. hamaguchi is a remarkable visual linguist, articulating with tact and poise that grief and anguish are often solitary, self-imposed tortures. cassavetes totally makes sense as a championed influence, utilizing an array of static mediums and wides to produce passages of either palpable repression or eruptive passion. two of its greatest editing choices come within seconds of each other, towards the end of the film; after dozens of sequences spent within and outside the car, often photographed from behind to highlight what’s ahead, the lens turns around for a peek at what we’re leaving behind: resentment, scorn, regret, pain. Drive My Car doesn’t directly interrogate the ramifications of the pandemic, but it feels indubitably informed by it. a plea for the restoration of communal empathy could not have have arrived at a more pertinent time. 

i forgave my father today. for dying before i was ready to lose him. for missing out on my graduation, denying me the pictures i would have definitely put on my wall. for missing out on my transition, denying me the opportunity to have a conversation about how stupid men can be and how to keep myself safe when i’m out alone. for missing out on movie nights, and debates on whether or not the new designated Star Wars offshoot looks like shit (it probably does). for missing out on my wedding, for missing out on meeting my eventual wife. i had to forgive him, so that i could keep living.

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