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TIFF 2021: “Drive My Car”


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Japanese cinema is always exquisite, deep and insightful. It knows how to play with words and carefully translate them into actions. And actors? Oh boy! How marvelous they all are. If you find me exaggerating, then you probably haven’t seen “Drive My Car” yet.

Yusuke and Oto are a very successful married couple. Yusuke is an acclaimed stage actor and director, while his wife is a skilled playwright whose ability as a writer is astounding. But has many secrets her husband is not aware of. When she suddenly passes away, years later, Yusuke, unable to cope with the loss, embarks on a new journey as he hits the road in Hiroshima, entrusting his old car to a driver, Misaki.

There is a genius and moving intimacy between Oto and Yusuke, through the finer details the film tries to capture within the short amount of time of Oto’s presence on screen. She loves her husband dearly, yet engages in a romantic relationship with the young actor, Takatsuki. Despite the fact that Yusuke caught his wife’s infidelity, he keeps it to himself without revealing to her his knowledge about it.

It is that type of relationship when the man tries to explore and learn more about his wife. On the day when she dies, she tells Yusuke of her desire to speak to him about something very important. The information he’s never able to hear as he finds her in the evening deceased on the floor. But when he gets an offer in Hiroshima to direct a play, the man’s path will cross with Takatsuki once again, but this time cast as a lead man in Yusuke’s play.

Yusuke is very reluctant to share his car, not even with his wife. But due to strict festival rules Yusuke must comply with, the man agrees to Misaki driving his precious car. But through his journey on the road with her, he discovers new possibilities, revives his old memories and the loss of his wife that will return once again, to remind him maybe it’s time to move on.

“Drive My Car” Is a rare cinematic gem you didn’t even know existed. From start to end, it is filled with little details impossible to be missed. With its three-hour-long running time, you will feel time passing quickly because of the brilliant approach taken by director Ryusuke Hamaguchi. It is a moving and beautiful film at its best, showing us the importance of love and loss; life and death; sadness and grief and how it can produce a lifetime opportunity that, without heartbreak, would not be possible to achieve.

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