• Golden Globe Awards

Winners Circle 2022: Drive My Car (Japan)

In the privacy of a car – a moving room, if one looks at it from a different point of view – a man and a woman share silences in a circular open road. Kafuku, the passenger, is a theater actor and director; Misaki, the driver, is a young woman provided by the producers of a theater festival in Hiroshima. Both of them have a past loaded with loss and pain, and, slowly and inexorably, the discovery of each other’s wounds offers the possibility of peace and healing.
Writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Touching the Skin of Eeriness, Happy Hour, Asako I & II) read Haruki Murakami’s short story back in 2013. The brief and powerful text never left his mind. “It was a friend of mine who suggested I should read it because he thought I would enjoy it,” Hamaguchi said at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “There were indeed elements which were familiar to me. Drama, acting, and as the title says, “Drive My Car”, cars, vehicles. I think the inside of a car is a very good environment for intimate conversations. I have a personal experience of this, and I had already explored this in other films. And I think that in this film Kafuku and Misaki, in this closed space of the car, they connect, and their relationship develops. And I think the intimacy also increases, and that relationship already existed in the original short story, and I think it is at the heart of this film.”
The intro to the car ritual places Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) in a family life that soon would fall apart. Two years later he agrees to move to Hiroshima for two months, to present a bold, multi-lingual version of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. His only request is to be housed someplace far enough from the theater – he needs one hour each way, in the car, listening to the notes recorded by his wife. The festival directors agree, with one caveat – to avoid insurance issues, he must have a driver, a young woman called Misaki (Tôko Miura). Kafuku resists the idea at first but Misaki’s dexterity on the road changes his mind.
“In the car, being in the car, of course, it is very important to stage this very precisely,” Hamaguchi commented at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. “The two characters in the short story sat side by side right from the start, but I wanted their relationship to evolve and that we should see that in the car as well. It had to be very specific. The first time that they meet, of course, Kafuku and Misaki are one face to the other. When we have Kazuki, who is an exterior personality, there is a confrontation. The two characters are like adversaries who are looking at each other. Finally, Kafuku will come to the front of the car as his relationship with Misaki evolves. “
Shot on location in Hiroshima (the project’s original plan was to film in Busan, Korea, but the Covid situation changed the production’s plans), Drive My Car’s delicate and powerful photography (Hidetoshi Shinomiya) takes advantage of the landscape. Drive My Car was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and received three awards, including Best Screenplay.  It is now a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film