Numb from the sudden death of his screenwriter wife Oto (Reika Kirishima), actor Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is recruited for a brief residency to direct the play he had previously performed in, and the last play Oto watched him in. Yūsuke has formed a shell around him, refusing to let anyone catch him with his guard down. Aside from theatre, he likes to be alone. His routine is rocked, however, when the theatre program assigns him a driver, a young woman named Misaki (Tōko Miura). Yūsuke feels as if this added company infringes on his personal life, but he begrudgingly accepts due to the theatre’s policies. Unbeknownst to Yūsuke, the relationship between him and Misaki, and other members in the theatre troupe, will soon remind him of the importance new relationships can hold, and how they help develop growth for our mental health.
I wasn’t floored by Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car but, nonetheless, it does succeed in what it wants to convey about human nature. Hamaguchi commits to the framework in the sense that the filmmaker does not want to rush the genuine build-up that’s crucial for a worthwhile human interaction. This results in an entirely too generous runtime shy of three hours. Though Drive My Car does, indeed, capture that gradual blossoming between strangers, Hamaguchi overshot his ambition by failing to make a thoroughly engaging movie. Movie goers can believe these characters because the performances are great across the board. But, Hamaguchi’s dialogue-heavy script (which he co-wrote) presents stilted conversations without much personality in the writing, and his direction is too much of a slow burn to handle.
When we’ve seen movies tackle similar themes before in a more concise manner (Columbus and The Descendants to name a couple), we expect Ryusuke Hamaguchi to prove why his movie needs the extra time. I appreciate Drive My Car trying to use its runtime as a beneficial quality to its story, but the movie doesn’t provide enough proof. Drive My Car is well intentioned, but incredibly boring.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie