#TIFF21: “DRIVE MY CAR” REVIEW
Review by Amanda Gilmore
Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a successful Stage Actor and Director and married to Oto (Reika Kirishima), a successful Playwright and Screenwriter. The two share a long life filled with artistic collaboration. But then Oto dies suddenly. Still coping with the loss two years later, he accepts an offer to direct a play in Hiroshima. It’s there he is forced to have a driver, the young, headstrong Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), who will drive his red Saab 900. The two slowly develop a bond linked to their similar bereavement.
Co-Screenwriter and Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has adapted Haruki Murakami’s short story into a deeply moving film about loneliness, grief and forgiveness. Both Kafuku and Watari have lost loved ones. For Kafuku it was a secretive wife and for Watari it was her troubled mother. Oto’s wife was sneaking around behind his back, Watari’s mother physically abused her. Along their developing friendship, comes the poignant story of grieving for loved ones who treat us poorly and learning to forgive them along the way.
Hamaguchi dives deep into the importance of artistry in understanding human nature. Throughout the narrative, Kafuku is directing a multilingual stage production of Uncle Vanya. In doing so, the actors Kafuku are directing learn more about themselves. Along the way, so does Kafuku. The edits made and the interwoven story of life and theatre are impeccably crafted. By the time we reach the end of Drive My Car, one thing is crystal clear: artistry brings us catharsis.
Drive My Car is like a Russian Doll of thematic layers and drama. All of which the entire cast unveil. The layers of drama come primarily through Kafuku casting his wife’s lover, Takatsuki, in his play. The two men share many tense yet tender moments playing to both their talents. Nishijima is outstanding in the lead. He carries Kafuku’s grief in his entire body and is able to evoke anguish, anger, and release all at once. And Miura is a pleasure to watch. It’s midway through the Film when we are introduced to her and she barely speaks until the Final Act, but she steals the show.
Most impressively, at one minute under the three hour mark time still manages to fly by.
Drive My Car screens at TIFF ’21:
Fri, Sep 10 at 5 PM at Scotiabank Theatre
Wed, Sep 15 at 7 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thu, Sep 16 at 1 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sat, Sep 18 at 1 PM on Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox