theriverjordan’s review published on Letterboxd:
If we are condemned to waste our lives through failure to live up to our own expectations, let us at least waste our lives in the company of those we love.
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” idles its engine over three hours with a melancholic poetry of language and tone. Referencing works of profound stasis, such as Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” and Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” it reminds viewers of the pleasant defeat to be found in waiting.
“Car” stars Hidetoshi Nishijima as an avant garde theatre director who comes to suffer from a literal and figurative myopia. While the medical condition is somewhat dire, Hamaguchi plays the inciting incident so low key that is passes coyness, and becomes denial.
Like the characters in “Godot” and “Vanya,” there seems to be something ending all around Hamaguchi. The tramps of “Godot” are unable to see this beyond the actual fourth wall of the theatre. The family of “Vanya,” also, is trapped from reaching this realization inside the boundaries of their secluded dacha.
And then, there is Hamaguchi’s widowed director. Relegated from the city to the more provincial Hiroshima, he lives among his own ruins, without an exit. He leads a troop of actors who speak different languages; only succeeding at lulling each other into a sense of ambivalent dormancy when another of them speaks.
Hamaguchi is ferried back and forth from daily rehearsals by a young woman driver; a proficient, though (initially) passive guide; something of a Charon, who leads Hamaguchi to and from the world of the living and the dead each morning and night.
Only - he appears to have passed the point of being able to distinguish which one is which.