A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Communication is important. It's never clear whether the stories the characters are telling are true, but even so, the emotions that come through cause people to connect in various ways.
Positive Role Models
Kafuku makes a living as an actor and a director, commanding respect from those around him, so he's somewhat admirable. And Misaki Watari is shown to be a survivor, making a life for herself after her parents' deaths and using her only skill, driving, to support herself. A character who commits a crime receives punishment without complaint.
The play of Uncle Vanya is performed in a variety of languages, by actors from Japan, Korea, China, etc. One performer reads her lines in Korean Sign Language. All the characters are well developed. Even Takatsuki, who has a bit of an impulse-control problem, has a good side.
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Violence & Scariness
A major character dies of a cerebral hemorrhage. Dead body shown. Dialogue describing violent incidents, a fight, stabbing in eye, murder, etc. One character threatens another in a bar, grabbing his shirt. Two minor car accidents. A couple lost a 4-year-old daughter to pneumonia.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One spouse cheats on another. A couple is shown embracing and having sex, with thrusting, and one atop the other (no explicit nudity). Another couple also has sex, with one atop the other; one has an orgasm (no nudity). Married couple lies in bed together, naked (a woman's naked bottom is partially seen). Naked male bottom. Couple kissing, caressing. Dialogue about a married woman having many sexual partners. Dialogue about masturbation, tampons, stripping off clothes. Other brief, minor sex-related dialogue.
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Strong verbal sexual references.
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Products & Purchases
Character watches a video on YouTube. Coca-Cola and Sapporo bottles shown on dinner table. The titular car is a red Saab Turbo.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking. Social drinking (whiskey) in bars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Drive My Car is a Japanese drama about storytelling, truth, and many other things; subtle and masterful, it's highly recommended for mature viewers. Expect fairly graphic sex scenes, that include thrusting and climaxing, but there's very little nudity (just a partial female bottom and a full male bottom). Characters kiss and have extramarital sex, and there's some sex-related dialogue. People die (a dead body is shown); one man threatens another in a bar, grabbing his shirt; and there are two minor car accidents, as well as dialogue about violent acts. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink socially in bars (whiskey). The movie is long (three hours) but is worth every second. For U.S. release, the English subtitles show dialogue in brackets whenever anyone is not speaking Japanese. Some dialogue is in English as well. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A masterful, meditative achievement, this Japanese drama uses every bit of its three-hour running time to find subtle nuances and to sharply define characters by use of the empty spaces around them. Directed and co-written by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and based on a short story by Haruki Murakami (whose work also inspired Burning), Drive My Car frequently relies on things unspoken. For example, Kafuku decides not to say anything about his wife's infidelity, and she mentions, on the morning of her death, that she'd like to talk to him about something; the subject is never revealed. The tapes that Kafuku listens to in his car, a recording of Uncle Vanya read by Oto, with only Vanya's speaking parts left blank, are likewise rooted in silent spaces. And when Kafuku asks Misaki to show him her favorite part of Hiroshima, she begins by taking him to a garbage refinery, where the falling trash reminds her of snow.
But spoken stories also resonate, with the caveat that the words themselves are unimportant so long as the emotions behind them are true (juxtaposing the idea of meticulously learning lines for a play). The movie begins with a strange, sad, beautiful story, created by Oto during sex with her husband, that comes into play again later and changes. When, finally, characters do begin to reveal the truths of themselves, it feels like a great tumbling out, but even that is beautifully modulated by Hamaguchi. He never loses touch with the movie's tone or themes, even for a second. His visual schemes, especially the strange lines of the rehearsal room, mesh perfectly as well. Drive My Car is a movie that contains multitudes and is worth sitting through more than once -- and worth pondering for longer still.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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