You get the sense that Hamaguchi is playing with the idea of prologues, of elements that sit just beyond a narrative arc that shades everything that follows. It’s a wonderful impulse that works beautifully in the film — perhaps a little too beautifully, however, because the prologue outshines everything that comes next.
Stream Drive My Car
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The result is a low-key but lingeringly resonant tale about a strange chapter in the life of a grieving theater director — an intimate stage whisper of a film in which every scene feels like a secret.
At its most accomplished, the film unfolds with a voluptuous slowness and a sense that narrative endpoints are irrelevant.
Despite what may initially seem to be a somewhat straightforward contemporary drama, Hamaguchi has crafted a rich, skilfully layered masterwork with flawless performances and a script that is a screenwriter’s holy grail. It sticks in your brain for days and nudges you to take it in again.
Hamaguchi’s filmmaking, always accomplished, reaches new heights of refinement and sensory richness here, principally via Shinomiya’s immaculate, opaline lensing.
Hamaguchi has taken Murakami’s original story as a springboard rather than a strict template, changing and adding locations, inventing additional characters and boosting the importance of others.
It’s a graceful, aching film that sculpts and stretches Murakami’s story into an enchanting three-hour epic (my, do the minutes fly by) about trauma and mourning, shared solitude, and the possibility of moving on. The narrative also doubles as a lovely ode to the car itself, and the strange ways that people open up when cocooned inside them.
There are poetic and profound rewards here, even if Hamaguchi makes us wait too long for this quietly devastating emotional pay-off.