Drive My Car
Drive My Car movie poster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
HepburnDoraibu Mai Kā
Directed byRyusuke Hamaguchi
Screenplay by
Based on"Drive My Car"
by Haruki Murakami
Produced by
  • Teruhisa Yamamoto
CinematographyHidetoshi Shinomiya
Edited byAzusa Yamazaki
Music byEiko Ishibashi
Distributed byBitters End (Japan)
Release dates
  • 11 July 2021 (2021-07-11) (Cannes)
  • 20 August 2021 (2021-08-20) (Japan)
Running time
179 minutes
Box office$15.2 million[1][2]

Drive My Car (Japanese: ドライブ・マイ・カー, Hepburn: Doraibu Mai Kā) is a 2021 Japanese drama film[3] co-written and directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi dealing with the grief and loss of a middle-aged theater director following the premature death of his wife.[4] It is based on Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name from his 2014 collection Men Without Women, while taking inspiration from other stories in it.[5] The film follows Yūsuke Kafuku (played by Hidetoshi Nishijima) as he directs a multilingual production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima and grapples with the death of his wife, Oto.

Drive My Car had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or and won three awards, including Best Screenplay. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with many declaring it one of the best films of 2021.[6][7][8] It earned four nominations at the 94th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning Best International Feature Film.[9][10] It is the first Japanese film nominated for Best Picture.[11] At the 79th Golden Globe Awards, the film won Best Foreign Language Film. It became the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture from all three major U.S. critics groups (the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the National Society of Film Critics).


Actor and well-known theater director Yūsuke Kafuku is married to Oto, an attractive screenwriter. Oto conceives her stories during sex and narrates them to Yūsuke. After watching her husband in a performance of Waiting for Godot, Oto introduces Yūsuke to her frequent collaborator, a conceited young actor Kōji Takatsuki. When Yūsuke returns home early one day, he finds his wife having sex with a young man he recognizes as Kōji. He leaves silently without being noticed and does not bring it up with her. After getting into a car accident, Yusuke goes to the hospital and discovers he has glaucoma in one eye and must take prescribed eyedrops to avoid eventual blindness. His wife commiserates with him. One day, as Yūsuke is leaving for work, Oto tells him she wants to talk to him later that evening. Yūsuke returns home late to find Oto dead from a brain hemorrhage. After her funeral, Yūsuke has a breakdown while performing in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and is unable to continue the show.

Two years later, Yūsuke accepts a residency in Hiroshima, where he will direct a multilingual adaptation of Uncle Vanya. The theater company requires that instead of driving himself that Yūsuke is to be chauffeured in his own car, a red 1987 Saab 900 Turbo. He objects at first, but relents after the reserved young female chauffeur, Misaki Watari, reveals herself to be a skilled driver. During their drives, Yūsuke and Misaki begin to bond. A day goes by and Yūsuke casts several people, including Kōji, whose career has recently been hurt by improper conduct, as Uncle Vanya despite his young age and concerns for his erratic behavior. After further consulting with his dramaturge Gong Yoon-su, Yūsuke finally makes up his mind on the complete cast. The contestants who pass the audition sign the contract and they begin rehearsing altogether.

One night, having finished with a rehearsal, Kōji asks Yūsuke for a drink in his hotel bar. It is revealed that Kōji joined the audition to play the script written by Oto and that he was jealous of Yūsuke for marrying Oto. Kōji later admits that he loved Oto but that it was unrequited love. As they're leaving, Kōji scolds someone who secretly takes a picture of him.

Another day goes by after rehearsal, Yūsuke offers Yoon-su a ride home. He returns the favor by inviting Yūsuke to dinner. Later, at Yoon-su's place, Yūsuke is surprised to find his wife turned out to be one of the actors. On his way home after dinner, Misaki tells him about her abusive mother who taught her to drive in junior high school.

Later that night, Kōji asks Yūsuke for another drink at bar. Kōji is wondering why Yūsuke trusted him with the role and Yūsuke responds by criticizing Kōji's lack of self control. On the way out of the bar, Kōji slips away briefly to follow a man who had been taking photos of him without permission. During their drive home, Yūsuke reveals that he and Oto lost their daughter, who would have been Misaki's age, to pneumonia. The incident enabled Oto to tell a story only after having sex with Yūsuke and writing it as film scenario. He also knew of his wife's affairs but kept quiet because he believed that she still loved him in spite of those affairs. Kōji shares one of Oto's stories that Yūsuke had never heard in its entirety. Some days later, the police arrive at a rehearsal and arrest Kōji because the photographer he fought with has now died from the injuries sustained from their fight. The directors of the residency offer Yūsuke a choice: either step into the role of Vanya or cancel the play altogether. Yūsuke is given 2 days to think about it.

During that spare time, Yūsuke asks Misaki to take him to her childhood home in Hokkaido. During their car trip, Misaki reveals that she could have saved her mother in the mudslide, where she sustained an injury that left a prominent scar on her left cheek, but she chose not to. Yūsuke feels that he might have saved his wife had he come home to face the discussion she wanted to have. They arrive at the remains of Misaki's childhood home where her mother died and they sympathize with each other’s separately experienced grief in dealing with life's emotional setbacks. Yūsuke empathetically hugs her while they stand in the snow in front of the remains of Misaki's childhood home. They then return to Hiroshima, where Yūsuke assumes the role of Vanya and gives an impassioned performance before a live audience, which includes Misaki.

In the present day, Misaki finishes buying groceries in Korea and gets into the red Saab. A dog waits for her in the back seat. She takes off her surgical mask, revealing that her scar is now barely visible, and drives away.



The film is directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi. The film was originally set in Busan, South Korea, but was changed to Hiroshima due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[12]


Hamaguchi was the co-writer of the filmscript with Takamasa Oe. It is primarily based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami from his 2014 short story collection, Men Without Women.[13][14] The script also features elements from Murakami's stories "Scheherazade" and "Kino" (both also part of Men Without Women).[5]

A number of departures were incorporated into the film which differed from the original plot explored in Murakami's short story of the same name which are evident from a short synopsis of the short story:

Kafuku, a veteran and widowed actor, hires twenty-four year old driver Misaki Watari to chauffeur him around Tokyo due to his license being revoked due to a D.U.I. and glaucoma. During their trips, Kafuku occasionally tells her about his life as an actor and his late wife's extramarital affairs. One tale includes how he befriended her final lover, Takatsuki, with the intention of harming him. However, over the course of their six month friendship which was spent mostly binge drinking at local bars, he was never able to find any damning information and instead sympathizes with Takatsuki's observations. He also never learns of his wife's motives, calling it a "blind spot" in his knowledge of her. After hearing his story, Misaki notes that perhaps his wife having affairs had had nothing to do with love and that was a good enough reason to do so. After contemplating this propositions, he falls asleep as she continues driving. Dealing with actors and the world of theatre, "Drive My Car" could be considered as an example of what Graham Wolfe calls "theatre-fiction".

First, in the film version, the director does not have a revoked license but is told that theatre management policies require a driver to be assign to him. Also, Hamaguchi and Oe changed the narrative format of describing the marital infidelity to the actual filming of the infidelity as part of the introductory material leading up to the death of his wife, before he meets his driver. For the film version, the co-authors were reported by The New York Times as "greatly expanded on the (short) story's central dynamic, which turns on a sexist widowed actor and the much-younger female driver who motors him around in his cherished Saab."[15]


Cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya was assigned to do the filming for the project.[16]

Set design

The original story features a yellow Saab 900 convertible, but it was changed in the film to a red Saab 900 Turbo to visually complement the Hiroshima landscape.[17]


Hamaguchi wished to incorporate the Beatles' song "Drive My Car", which the film and story are named after, however it was too difficult to get permission for its usage. He instead included a string quartet piece by Beethoven, which is directly referenced in Murakami's original story.[18]

Writing for Pitchfork, Quinn Moreland wrote that the soundtrack "possesses a cool remove, mirroring the film's glacial profundity with organic nuance and contemplative improvisation."[19] Vannesa Ague of The Quietus wrote; "Ishibashi creates a narrative within the theme and variations, tracing a musical path that stands on its own."[20] Writing for PopMatters, Jay Honeycomb wrote; "Ishibashi's music washes over you when it comes, allowing the seeds planted by Hamaguchi to germinate and grow without drowning you in sentimentality."[21]

Drive My Car Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJanuary 7, 2022
StudioHoshi to Nijii Recording Studio, Atelier Eiko, Steamroom
GenreJazz, Pop
LabelNewhere, Space Shower
Professional ratings
Review scores
The QuietusFavourable [20]

The original score for Drive My Car was composed by musician Eiko Ishibashi.[22] In an interview with Variety, director Hamaguchi said; "Typically, I don't use a lot of music in my films, but hearing the music Ishibashi made was the first time I thought this could work for the film."[23]

1."Drive My Car"5:04
2."Drive My Car (Misaki)"2:27
3."Drive My Car (Cassette)"2:55
4."Drive My Car (The Important Thing Is to Work)"3:08
5."We'll Live Through the Long, Long Days, and Through the Long Nights"3:56
6."We'll Live Through the Long, Long Days, and Through the Long Nights (SAAB 900)"4:53
7."We'll Live Through the Long, Long Days, and Through the Long Nights (Oto)"5:19
8."Drive My Car (Kafuku)"3:39
9."Drive My Car (The Truth, No Matter What It Is, Isn't That Frightening)"2:07
10."We'll Live Through the Long, Long Days, and Through the Long Nights (And When Our Last Hour Comes We'll Go Quietly)"5:01
11."Drive My Car (Hiroshima)"2:47
12."We'll live through the long, long days, and through the long nights (different ways)"5:23
Total length:46:44


Music personnel


Drive My Car had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in competition for the Palme d'Or.[26][27]

Box office

As of 8 April 2022, Drive My Car has grossed $2.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $12.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $14.7 million.[2]

In the United States, the film had grossed $944,000 at the time of its Oscar nominations on February 8, 2022. Between then and March 20, it grossed $1.15 million (a 122% increase), for a running total of $2.1 million.[28]

Home media

The DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film were released on July 19, 2022 in the USA, was released in the library of Criterion Collection films.[29]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 210 reviews, with an average rating of 8.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Drive My Car's imposing runtime holds a rich, patiently engrossing drama that reckons with self-acceptance and regret."[30] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 91 out of 100 based on 42 critics, the film received "universal acclaim".[31]

The film received a positive review from Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, where she wrote, "Drive My Car sneaks up on you, lulling you in with visuals that are as straightforward as the narrative is complex."[3] Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw gave the film five stars out of five and called it an "engrossing and exalting experience".[32]

Metacritic reported that Drive My Car appeared on over 89 film critics' top-ten lists for 2021, the most of any foreign-language film that year, and ranked first or second on 23 lists.[33]

Carlos Aguilar found the cinematography of the film to be exceptional, stating that: "Bountiful in subtle imagery from cinematographer Hidetoshi Shinomiya, the film mines majestic visual symbolism from seemingly ordinary occurrences. Take for example a shot of Yûsuke and Misaki's hand through the car's sunroof holding cigarettes as to not let the smoke permeate their sacred mode of transportation—an unspoken communion of respect."[16]


Main article: List of accolades received by Drive My Car (film)

Ryusuke Hamaguchi was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.

The film was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival where it won three awards including Best Screenplay.[34] Hamaguchi and Oe became the first Japanese individuals to win the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes.[35] At the 79th Golden Globe Awards, the film won Best Foreign Language Film.[36]

It was picked as the Japanese entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, making the December 2021 shortlist.[37][38] It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Hamaguchi, Best Adapted Screenplay for Hamaguchi and co-screenwriter Takamasa Oe, and Best International Feature Film, winning the latter award.[39][40] It was the first Japanese film nominated for Best Picture,[41] and Hamaguchi became the third Japanese director nominated for Best Director since Hiroshi Teshigahara in 1965 and Akira Kurosawa in 1985.[42]

It became the latest (and the first non-English-language film) of the only six to win Best Picture from all three major U.S. critics groups (LAFCA, NYFCC, NSFC), the other five being Goodfellas, Schindler's List, L.A. Confidential, The Social Network and The Hurt Locker.

See also


  1. ^ "Drive My Car (2021)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Drive My Car (2021)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (24 November 2021). "'Drive My Car' Review: A Director Takes Your Heart for a Spin". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  4. ^ "Drive My Car director Hamaguchi: Oscar buzz is beyond imagination". BBC News. 17 March 2022. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  5. ^ a b Brzeski, Patrick (9 July 2021). "Japan's Ryusuke Hamaguchi on Adapting Murakami for 'Drive My Car' and Vehicles as Confession Booths". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  6. ^ "LA film critics pick 'Drive My Car' as year's best". The Seattle Times. 19 December 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  7. ^ "New York film critics name 'Drive My Car' best film of 2021". The Seattle Times. 3 December 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  8. ^ "'Drive My Car' Is Named Best Film of 2021 by the National Society of Film Critics". Collider. 9 January 2022. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  9. ^ 'Drive My Car' (Japan) Wins Best International Film|94th Oscars
  10. ^ 2022|
  11. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (8 February 2022). "Oscars: 'Drive My Car' Makes History As First Japanese Film Nominated For Best Picture". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  12. ^ "今夏のカンヌで日本映画史上初の脚本賞ほか4冠に輝いた、村上春樹原作「ドライブ・マイ・カー」8/20(金)公開". Asahi Family. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  13. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (1 June 2021). "The Match Factory Boards Murakami Adaptation 'Drive My Car', The Next Film From Cannes & Berlin Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  14. ^ Schilling, Mark (14 March 2021). "Japan's Silver Bear-Winner Hamaguchi Ryusuke Plots His Next Film Moves". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  15. ^ "'Drive My Car' Review: A Director Takes Your Heart for a Spin". Critics Pick. The NY Times. [1]
  16. ^ a b "Drive My Car Review". Carlos Aguilar.
  17. ^ 嶋田知加子 (20 August 2021). "映画「ドライブ・マイ・カー」は広島ロケの大作 カンヌ脚本賞受賞作を女子アナ&シネマ通が語りつくす". Fuji News Network (in Japanese). Shinhiroshima Telecasting. Archived from the original on 21 August 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  18. ^ Wong, Silvia (9 July 2021). "Berlin prize-winner Ryusuke Hamaguchi talks Cannes Competition title 'Drive My Car'". Screen Daily. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  19. ^ a b Moreland, Quinn (14 February 2022). "Drive My Car - Original Soundtrack". Pitchfork.
  20. ^ a b Ague, Vanessa (11 January 2022). "Eiko Ishibashi DRIVE MY CAR OST". The Quietus.
  22. ^ Hadfield, James (18 March 2022). "Eiko Ishibashi's score sets the scene in Oscar-contender 'Drive My Car'". The Japan Times.
  23. ^ Amorosi, A.D (11 March 2022). "'Drive My Car' Director and Soundtrack Composer on Crafting Film's Emotional Score: 'Our Film Language Was Very Similar'". Variety.
  24. ^ "Drive My Car OST on Musicbrainz".
  25. ^ "Drive My Car OST on Bandcamp".
  26. ^ Sharf, Zack (3 June 2021). "Cannes Film Festival 2021 Lineup: Sean Baker, Wes Anderson, and More Compete for Palme d'Or". IndieWire. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  27. ^ "DRIVE MY CAR". Festival de Cannes 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (24 March 2022). "Oscar's Halo Effect On Best Picture Nominees Dims — Not Just At Box Office But On Streaming: A Scorecard". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  29. ^ Pre-release notification at Amazon.
  30. ^ "Drive My Car". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Drive My Car Reviews". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  32. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (14 July 2021). "Drive My Car review – mysterious Murakami tale of erotic and creative secrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  33. ^ "Best of 2021: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  34. ^ "Cannes Film Festival 2021: Full Winners List". Asia Tatler. 18 July 2021. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  35. ^ Sato, Misuzo (18 July 2021). "'Drive My Car' wins Cannes Best Screenplay for Hamaguchi, Oe". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 18 July 2021. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  36. ^ "Japan's 'Drive My Car' wins Golden Globe for best non-English film". The Japan Times. 10 January 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  37. ^ ""Drive My Car" exhibited at the Academy Awards selection for Japan". Sankei. 11 October 2020. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  38. ^ Davis, Clayton (21 December 2021). "Oscars Shortlists Include Beyoncé, 'Spider-Man' and Two Jonny Greenwood Scores as France's 'Titane' Is Snubbed". Variety. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  39. ^ Lang, Brent; Moreau, Jordan; Grantham-Philips, Wyatte (8 February 2022). "Oscar Nominations 2022: 'Power of the Dog' Leads With 12 Nods, 'Dune' Follows With 10 (Full List)". Variety. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  40. ^ Dalton, Andrew (27 March 2022), "'Drive My Car' wins Oscar award for best international film", Associated Press
  41. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (8 February 2022). "Oscars: 'Drive My Car' Makes History As First Japanese Film Nominated For Best Picture". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 8 February 2022.
  42. ^ "米アカデミー賞候補に濱口監督「ドライブ・マイ・カー」". The Nikkei (in Japanese). 8 February 2022. Retrieved 8 February 2022.