Inspired by author Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same title, writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Cannes Best Screenplay winner Drive My Car is an avant-garde metatextual curation interweaving cinema, theatre, literature, and linguistics. Hamaguchi takes a bold, steady step to reimagine Murakami’s text by foregrounding its segment of Anton Chekhov’s classic play Uncle Vanya, which is only briefly mentioned in the source material. His execution seamlessly matches his ambition in orchestrating a large-scale multilingual production elevated by a diverse cast.

Hamaguchi starts out with an emotionless approach to portraying the film’s protagonist Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), an established stage actor and director struggling with his wife’s infidelities and sudden death. Along with his introduction of Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), Yusuke’s taciturn local chauffeur in Hiroshima, Hamaguchi proceeds to unravel the mysteries of the duo’s psyches that lead to a slow burn of catharsis and self-redemption in the end. Switching camera angles with precision and variety, the director creates a meditative space within Yusuke’s vintage red Saab cruising down memory lanes.

Exploiting the communicative potential of film as an art form, Hamaguchi redefines “dialogue” by incorporating sign language and voiceover narrations into the free-flowing theatrics of Uncle Vanya. Here, Korean actress Yoo-rim Park’s standout performance as a mute Sonya in the play particularly demonstrates the power of non-verbal acting. By taking down semantic barriers, Hamaguchi transforms the film into a holistic metaphor for our humanity in the age of globalisation, where we find solace in overcoming shared traumas.

Beyond its aesthetic pleasures and melodramatic appeals, the film is anchored by the themes of bond, loss, regret, and reconciliation. A poised culmination of Hamaguchi’s previous experimentations with form and style, this masterpiece marks the pinnacle of his career and cements his status as one of the most brilliant auteurs of contemporary world cinema.



CAST: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Yoo-rim Park, Reika Kirishima

DIRECTOR: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

WRITER: Ryusuke Hamaguchi 

SYNOPSIS: Struggling with the passing of his wife, a stage actor and director opens up to his newly-hired driver.