By Dana Alexander ‘22
Grief is one of the most powerful emotions to inhabit the human psyche. Once the grief finds refuge in our suffering, it begins to eat away at things we once considered joyous. The most common way for some to deal with this grief is to subscribe to some form of therapy.
However, some choose to bury the immense sadness by distracting themselves. Believing that if they never truly address the grief the pain will stop. That is the pre-existing information granted to the viewers of “Drive My Car.”
The now Academy-Awarding winning film epitomizes the beauty in international pictures. The film is a visual feast fit for royalty, from the delicious cultural elements to the tantalizing artistic spirit that holds firm control over the direction.
Finally coming up for air after voluntarily drowning in the unfiltered riches of Japanese cinema, I had a realization about the story. In an authorial choice that feels like a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” we are treated to two different films.
In the first forty minutes of the film, we are treated to a nuanced take on a romantic arthouse drama that has become ubiquitous in cinema. Yusuke is a renowned theater actor and director in a seemingly textbook marriage with his screenwriter wife Oto.
Near the first twenty minutes, Yusuke watches Oto have an affair with Takatsuki (a young actor attached to her new project). In the closing minutes of the prolonged opening, we watch Yusuke try to make sense of his crippling utopia. Then suddenly, Oto passes unexpectedly. At this point is where our second journey as an audience begins.
For the remaining two hours of the film, we witness Yusuke trying to cope by taking residency for a theater festival. He chooses to bury his pain in the sacred text of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. As a part of his agreement, Yusuke is not allowed to drive his car. Thus he is given a chauffeur, Misaki.
During the moments the two shared in the car, we watched in suspended suspense as they conversed about existence, grief, and the meaning of companionship. The stoic beauty of the cinematography feels as if we’re floating in a hot spring populated with roses.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s direction is pure, everlasting bliss. The room he allows for the characters to find their epiphanies naturally in the heart of the Japanese countryside is a breath of fresh air.
“I loved this film for the emotions it brings out. Seeing the pain and loss the main character undergoes and his transformative experience he undergoes in his self-journey is incredible,” said Danny Hartz ‘22.
One emotion that is a central motif is the feeling of unrequited love. Takatsuki, the man Yusuke’s late wife had an affair with, embodies this theme. He reveals over drinks with Yusuke how much he loved Oto and how she never reciprocated the same feelings.
Takatsuki also vies for the respect of Yusuke. In rehearsals, he’s like a young child starved of love and affection. Even when he finally earns praise from Yusuke, it’s stripped away when he’s arrested for murder, forcing him to leave the project.
“’Drive My Car’ is a well-crafted methodical film that takes full advantage of its runtime,” said Pat Swanson, a senior at St. Rita. Hamaguchi accomplished the impossible by making a three-hour film go by in a flash.
The Baptist church style runtime allows the audience to grieve, suffer, and truly heal with the characters. A scene from the film that further emphasizes this statement is when Misaki and Yusuke visit Misaki’s former village.
When Misaki tells Yusuke that his wife truly loved him despite her affairs, he breaks down, finally allowing the pain to vacate his body. “It’s a slow paced film that uses the abundance of time to find realization in our lives,” said Matt Durkin, a senior at St. Rita.
The moral of “Drive My Car” is to allow ourselves to feel sadness. Sadness is how we know we’re alive. In our moments of helplessness and utter despair is when we discover the path of rehabilitation and can once again become whole.