Phill’s review published on Letterboxd:
Time heals all wounds; a phrase that has been quoted many times, especially when someone or ourselves is faced with unwanted tragedies, heartbreaks, and loss. Time heals all wounds; a denial for us as people to overlook our own pain and suffer in hope for everything to get better on its own. But nothing gets better on its own. We need to do something. We need to look at our pain, confront it, and acknowledge its true existence. It might require time, so much time and process. But it must happen, so in the end time can actually heal all wounds.
Our main character was slammed by tragedy after tragedy. The loss of a child, a wife, being cheated, and slowly losing parts of himself. 2 years isn't enough for Mr. Kafuku to heal. Behind the trying-to-be-fine face he put on every day -- even in front of us -- there's this broken soul waiting to find his way of moving on. And moving on is harder to do than say. Especially when one is haunted by his own guilt of something out of his control.
Drive My Car is a car trip itself. The characters are the passengers, and Ryusuke Hamaguchi the director is the driver. He drives the engine slowly and slowly so we can have more time with the characters. Their past unraveled, secrets unveiled, guilt expressed. We become one with their stories, aches, and anguish. And most importantly, like what slow cinema should have become, it gives us a contemplative medium to ponder the experiences of our own tragedy.
I haven't read the source material Ryusuke Hamaguchi put into this film. Hence I don't really know if he expands or simply just adapts it. But to make a 3 hours film with a short story as its based material is already an impressive thing to do as a writer-director.
There are not many "mind-blowing" things coming out from Drive My Car. The story it tells and the emotions it conveys are executed in the most modest and humanistic sensibility a motion picture can be. The screenplay unfolds its pages as the mundane beauty of Hiroshima's landscape is shown to us, and Hidetoshi Nishijima screams out the subtle yet affecting pain of his character. It is a well-directed, written, acted, and shot film with stacks of heart-wrenching performances. A life-changing car trip.