ROMANTIC DRAMA; 2hr 1min (Japanese with subtitles)
STARRING: Kotone Furukawa, Katsuki Mori, Fusako Urabe
Familiar strangers: from left, Urabe and Kawai
In another fine-boned anatomy of feelings, Drive My Car writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi explores the sometime randomness of connection through a thematically linked trilogy of short stories. In “Episode 1: Magic (or Something Less Assuring)”, Meiko (Furukawa) is honest to a fault yet can’t bring herself to reveal to her bf, Gumi (Hyunri), that the new man with whom Gumi is so taken is Meiko’s ex-boyfriend (Ayumu Nakajima as Kazu). She keeps her own counsel in the car ride the two women share after a fashion shoot, saving her tangled reaction for Kazu in a barbed confrontation. “All I can do is hurt the one I love,” she concedes at last, seemingly confirming the impossible equation of them as a couple — or is she?
The currents of entanglement are equally slippery in “Episode 2, Door Wide Open”, when married college student Nao (Mori) attempts seduction as blackmail by reading an erotic section of a novel aloud to the professor (Kiyohiko Shibukawa as Segawa) who wrote it. Her motive is to hold on to the illicit sex that she enjoys with a student (Shouma Kai) whom Segawa is failing, and who put Nao up to the con. Although the cagey professor insists on leaving his office door open so as not to compromise the very rep that Nao is attempting to mess with, the sword of karma will swoop on them both.
The karmic outcome is kinder in the stranger-than coupling of “Episode 3: Once Again”, although the post-2019 world in which it takes place is emphatically not, having been swept by a computer virus that has sent it offline. For Natsuko (Urabe), isolation is nothing new: at her 20-year high-school reunion she barely remembers a soul and so is thrilled to recognise a beloved one-time classmate (Aoba Kawai) at a train station. In fact she is mistaken, but in a final study of revelation through conversation, as the two let down their guard, they share liberating confidences they’ve never voiced before.
Each of these encounters is its own snow globe: the people in them will never cross paths. Like the indelible characters in Drive My Car, what links them is a slow burn of self-discovery that will open their eyes to fundamental truths and unbalance the bedrock of their lives.