‘Drive My Car’: Robin Holabird’s film review


The COVID issues are causing enough concern about how to release movies. Tack over three hours with Japanese dialogue, much of it translated from Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya, and these marigolds swell like a sponge in water. Long, talkative and ordinary action. These descriptions fit drive my carslated for a more widespread US release this month.

Despite initially limited viewing opportunities, drive my car has appeared on many top 10 lists, including my own, as well as recently earned nominations for not only Best Foreign Language Oscar, but also vying for Best Overall Picture. In support of this recognition comes the nomination of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi as best director. He and his film deserve those nods.

Watching the movie a few months before all the hype, I vaguely expected a connection to the Beatles song, “Drive My Car.” Light and fun. Wrong! Themes of love and loss, emptiness and wholeness, menial work and artistic expression go far beyond any pop song. These large-scale ideas come in a simple format from a short story rather than an epic novel.

Effective simplicity often hides detailed complications, and drive my car succeeds on many levels, juxtaposing differences between realities and beliefs, wants and needs. Much of this happens in what initially appears to be a basic setting: present-day Hiroshima. But its explosive history means Hiroshima is never characterized as simple, and the city’s reputation lends an underlying emotion to the story’s characters and their interactions.

Also intertwined throughout the story, dialogue and scenes from playwright Anton Chekhov add weight to the events with his time-tested masterpiece that explores mundane lives. Following a direction similar to that of Chekhov, drive my car speeds beyond the ordinary in extraordinary terrain.

Robin Holabird is a KUNR entertainment critic, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of his reviews here.


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