Drive My Car at 74th Cannes Film Festival

Moira Jean Sullivan

Drive my Car is a Japanese film directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi based on a short story by Haruki Murakami "Men Without Women", which won the best screenplay award at Cannes in July.  Yûsuke Kafuku plays Hidetoshi Nishijima, a stage director asked to put up a play outside Hiroshima in a theater company  - Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya .  Yûsuke Kafuku takes the assignment in Hiroshima although he is in grief.  Misaki played by Tôko Miura is commissioned by the theatre company as his driver as he is not allowed to drive his car due to  insurance regulations. Yûsuke Kafuku is meticulous in his direction and the actors hardworking. But although Murakami's short story  is about  "Men without Women"  Drive My Car  is about a husband who learns to tolerate his sexually permissive who suddenly dies and then, he is never without women.

I saw the film in one of the Cannes theatres outside of the city in a spacious brand new cinema - Cineum that is located on a city bus line. The theatre does justice to a nearly three hour film highly polished and technically perfect film.  However, I  found the story unable to sustain the time span even with a road trip up north to the site of where Misaki’s family home collapsed in a mudslide and she lost her mother.  The interesting part of the film is the relationship between Yusuke and Misaki. We learn that Misaki learned how to drive smoothly because her mother would kick the seat hurting her back if the ride was bouncy. Both help each other in the healing process of surviving loss. The theatre troupe does as well, because the production is complicated involving a multi-language cast and an actor with a hearing disability and a lover of Kafuku's wife. The fact that the film is set in Hiroshima with a painful history adds to the haunting ordeals Yusuke and Misaki have endured. One of the sites they visit is Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. 

Originally the film was to have taken place in Busan South Korea separated by the Sea of Japan and close by ferry. The plans changed due to the pandemic. Uncle Vanya is a cold theatre piece as is Drive my Car and hard to warm up to but the engaging theater ensemble who struggle to adapt a western play to Japan and Misaki save the film from uncomfortable memory.

© 2021 - Moira Jean Sullivan - Air Date: 08/11/21
Movie Magazine International