mattheweg’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been living with Drive My Car all weekend since I saw it on Friday. I don't think there are many films I've seen that have burrowed themselves into me in the way this film did. Unsurprisingly I was reminded of Burning, but that film's disorientation is the polar opposite of the open-hearted generosity of this, which is closer in tone and scope to Maborosi and Yi Yi, in literate yet accessible complexity to Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs and La Flor.
Hamaguchi's films are gentle but tumultuous, like the graceful and mysterious rhythms of the ocean. Drive My Car is quite obviously his most successful work, projecting an equal amount of big dramatic arcs and quiet, forgettable details that accumulate into something that most closely resembles life. It's a minor miracle that the film has been embraced the way it has, not just because it's a decidedly arthouse film that has no business being embraced by groups like the Academy but because it so resolutely shuns conventions of modern filmmaking. There is a tone and style here, no doubt, but the thrust of these elements constantly varies. Two characters can have an elliptical conversation in one scene and a blunt and overly literal one in another. Sometimes the characters are smarter than they seem elsewhere, sometimes a moment is drawn out while another garners barely more than an insert, sometimes the film leans into the drama but only when it feels most unexpected.
I took time putting my thoughts down about the movie, not to write a great piece to sum up my feelings about what's in here but because I don't think my reaction can be summed up in words. The movie is about many things but the most meaningful are things that are best represented through film. There is a lot of beautiful writing about the film, both on here from people I follow and elsewhere from professional critics. I think all of it is valid but I don't think any one particular insight cuts to the heart of what makes it special. In fact, that might be precisely what makes it so special.