Movie review: Drive My Car

Uncle Vanya

My wife and I saw the Oscar-nominated movie Drive My Car recently at the Spectrum Theatre, the Landmark venue in Albany. There were only a few things about the film I knew. It was three hours long. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and International Feature Film, what they used to call Best Foreign Film. And it was three hours long?

And here’s a spoiler that’s right in the trailer. Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima), the wife of Yûsuke, dies unexpectedly. They love each other dearly, though it’s… complicated. She’s a teller of tales. He listens to Uncle Vanya by Chekhov repeatedly in the car. The first forty minutes I found a tad tedious.

THEN the opening credits run. What? And the rest of the story is far more compelling. Yûsuke, “a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima.” The catch, which he doesn’t realize until he gets there, is that the stage company requires that the director use a driver.

Not related to the Beatles song

Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura) is a very good chauffeur of his beloved red Saab. But she’s not particularly communicative, at least at first. Meanwhile, Yûsuke is busy selecting the cast, which is a diverse group that communicates in Japanese, English, Korean Sign Language, and others.

One cast member is an impetuous and hot-headed television actor Koshi Takatsuki (Toshiaki Inomata), who is trying to befriend the director for some reason. There is a couple in the production that my wife and I truly enjoyed.

As the rehearsals unfold, involving a lot of driving from the hotel to the rehearsal hall, Yûsuke and Misaki each start to address the pain and complexities of their pasts.

My verdict: I wish the first 40 minutes of Drive My Car were edited down to maybe 30. Yet the remaining 2:15 seemed to fly by. If you should see it, be patient with the first section because I think the payoff is worth it. The Rotten Tomatoes score was 98% positive from the critics, and 80% positive from the audiences.

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