A stage actor coping with the sudden death of his wife directs a new play
and befriends his assigned driver, who is dealing with grief of her own.
Drive My Car (2021)
Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
Written by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe
Starring Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, Reika Kirishima,
Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon, Masaki Okada
Based on the short story by Haruki Murakami
Oscar Wins - Best International Film
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay
Of all ten Best Picture nominees from the 94th Academy Awards, I'd wager this is the film people have seen the least. I hate to generalize, but it's an unfortunate fact that a lot of Americans just don't care for foreign films. Bottom line is they don't like to read. On top of that, Drive My Car has a runtime one minute shy of three hours. The irony is that the film is quite brilliant. It digs into the abstract nature of grief and shows us how difficult it is to move on, especially when things were left unsaid that can now never be said.
Yûsuke Kafuku (Nishijima) is a renowned stage actor who is in a loving marriage to his wife Oto (Kirishima), a talented writer. One day, he comes home unexpectedly to find his wife having sex with another man. She doesn't see him, and he leaves quietly. Before he can confront her, Oto dies of a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving Kafuku to deal with this on his own. Two years later, he's putting on a production of Uncle Vanya for a local theater, and he is assigned a driver (Miura), who feels guilt over the death of her mother. Together, the two find comfort in each other and learn to confront their own demons, and possibly forgive the dead for their sins. It's a slow burn, but every second is necessary for character development. By the end, you just want to scream.
I don't think Drive My Car will make a significant splash at the Oscars this year. Outside of Parasite, foreign films often don't. But it's easily one of the best screenplays of the year, and is worth your time. The music, the cinematography, the use of the play to reinforce the film's themes, all of it is gold.