Writer and director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi awed the 2021 Cannes Film Festival with “Drive My Car,” his epic, three-hour adaptation of a Haruki Murakami story. It’s certainly not hard to mine cinematic material from any Murakami story (see: 2018’s “Burning”), but Hamaguchi brings an ever-melancholy new spin to the celebrated Japanese author’s road tale. The film, which won Best Screenplay at Cannes, has also been selected as Japan’s entry for the International Feature Film Award at the 2022 Oscars. “Drive My Car” opens in New York City on November 24, followed by a rollout starting in Los Angeles on December 3 before heading elsewhere. Watch the first U.S. trailer for the film below.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Two years after his wife’s unexpected death, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director, receives an offer to direct a production of ‘Uncle Vanya’ at a theater festival in Hiroshima. There, he meets Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), a taciturn young woman assigned by the festival to chauffeur him in his beloved red Saab 900. As the production’s premiere approaches, tensions mount amongst the cast and crew, not least between Yusuke and Koji Takatsuki, a handsome TV star who shares an unwelcome connection to Yusuke’s late wife. Forced to confront painful truths raised from his past, Yusuke begins — with the help of his driver — to face the haunting mysteries his wife left behind. Adapted from Haruki Murakami’s short story, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s ‘Drive My Car’ is a haunting road movie traveling a path of love, loss, acceptance, and peace.”
Director Hamaguchi has had quite a year, with his “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” also playing the New York Film Festival alongside “Drive My Car.” (His 2015 “Happy Hour” and 2018 “Asako I & II” also gained plenty of critical acclaim.)
IndieWire recently spoke to the filmmaker about his double-bill of melancholy existential meditations, with “Drive My Car” bringing him into Oscar contention for the first time. “In my opinion,” Hamaguchi said, “fiction is the only kind of lie that society allows to exist, and it’s only allowed to exist because there’s a clear end to it. But in the short period of time before that end arrives, people are allowed to express something real about themselves.”
Janus Films and Sideshow Films are distributing “Drive My Car” stateside.