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Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tôko Miura, Reika Kirishima
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
A renowned stage actor and director learns to cope with his wife's unexpected passing when he receives an offer to direct a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 179 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/19/2022

• Cannes Press Conference
• Interview with Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Trailer
• Booklet


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Drive My Car: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 30, 2023)

Based on its title, one might expect 2021’s Drive My Car to offer a Beatles inspired tale ala 2019’s Yesterday. Instead, the Oscar-nominated film brings a drama about responses to life events.

Stage actor/director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) lives in Tokyo with his screenwriter wife Oto (Reika Kirishima). A series of tragedies – including Oto’s sudden death – shakes Yusuke and prompts him to withdraw from work and society.

Two years after Oto’s passing, though, Yusuke accepts an offer to direct a version of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. As he gets to know his driver Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), Yusuke confronts his past and attempts to move forward with his life.

To be honest, that seems like a fairly simple plot for a movie that runs nearly three hours. With a length that substantial, one expects a weighty epic, not a small-scale character drama.

Does Drive manage to use all that running time well? Given the film’s critical success, many will feel it does, but I can’t help but think it takes far too long to wind up where it needs to go.

Drive takes about 36 minutes to get to Oto’s demise, and we then wait until around 46 minutes to meet Misaki. Heck, Drive doesn’t even bother with opening credits until the 40-minute mark!

That feels like a declaration of cinematic intent. Co-writer/director Ryusuke Hamaguchi wants us to know he plans to take the long route on this journey.

Which I think would work if Drive came with more to say. While it certainly touches on themes that bring emotional and introspective impact, the slow pace of the movie works against it.

Well, for me, at least. As noted, Drive received a lot of praise, so obviously the gradual manner in which it engages in its character and story material doesn’t put off everyone.

And in theory, I don’t oppose a movie of this sort that uses three hours to get from beginning until end. However, I just find this film to drag too much along the way.

Too much of Drive simply feels superfluous. For instance, shots of the Uncle Vanya rehearsals run on and on without obvious necessity.

Again, if the film managed to allow the characters and situations to evolve in a meaningful manner, the extended running time wouldn’t become a problem. However, too much of Drive feels superficial.

Or worse, as Drive takes some eye-rolling paths at times. For example, Yusuke casts one of Oto’s former lovers in the play, and that just seems “soap opera”.

Drive does muster some emotion at its end. However, this feels like too little, too late, and the finale can’t redeem this slow journey.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Drive My Car appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a positive presentation.

For the most part, sharpness worked fine. A little softness crept into wider shots at times, but most of the movie looked accurate and well-defined.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects emerged, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.

Drive opted for a light teal palette that leaned toward the blue side of that coin, though some amber/orange showed up at times too. While not an exciting choice, the Blu-ray replicated the colors as intended.

Blacks felt deep and dark, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. All in all, the image satisfied.

Given the film’s status as an introspective character drama, one wouldn’t expect sonic fireworks from its DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Indeed, the mix remained largely restrained.

Most of the time, side and surround usage connected to vehicles or weather. Nothing showy occurred, but those components managed to form a nice sense of place and setting.

Audio quality worked fine, with dialogue that appeared natural and concise. Music offered a gentle presence but came across as full and lush.

As noted, effects lacked a lot to do, but they also felt well-rendered and accurate. Though never a memorable mix, the audio suited the story.

A few extras appear here, and a Cannes Press Conference fills 43 minutes, 39 seconds. It offers a panel with director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, producer Teruhisa Yamamoto and actors Sonia Yuan, Toko Miura and Reika Kirishima.

They discuss the source story and its adaptation, story and characters, staging scenes in the car, cast and performances, shooting during COVID, and connected topics.

Since panels like this largely exist to promote films, one shouldn’t expect a ton of insights here. Nonetheless, the press conference seems more substantial than most and comes with some good notes.

Next comes an Interview with Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi. This spans 25 minutes, five seconds.

Hamaguchi covers what got him into filmmaking, his approach to cinematic storytelling and his view of the camera’s purpose, how he found the source story and brought it to the screen, cast and performances, research and influences, and some production notes.

Here we find a nice overview of different production issues. It comes as a disappointment that Hamaguchi didn’t do an audio commentary, as he presents a nice set of insights.

Behind the Scenes spans 35 minutes, 21 seconds and presents shots from sets. We also get some comments from Kirishima, Yuan, Miura, and actors Hidetoshi Nishijima, Jin Dae-yeon, Ahn Hwitae, Park Yu-rim, and Masaki Okada.

As we see glimpses of the production, we get notes about cast and characters, Hamaguchi’s work as director, and thoughts about the film. The interviews add less than one would hope, but the candid material from the shoot adds value.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the set concludes with a booklet that includes art, credits and an essay from critic Bryan Washington. It finishes the package on a positive note.

With a slow pace and a deliberate plot, Drive My Car will not work for everyone – and that includes me. At three hours, the film taxes patience and fails to deliver enough payoff to warrant that extended running time. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, appropriate audio and a mix of bonus materials. For what it attempts, Drive seems professional but the end result leaves me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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