Talented theater actor and director Yusuke Kafuku is torn between work and a difficult relationship with his wife, whom he traps for treason. When life suddenly separates them, the man has to share his only treasure – the car – with the girl-driver Misaki, appointed to him by the new boss. Going through the intricacies of life, each of the heroes of this story will seek redemption and try to heal from the wounds of the past.
Ryusyuke Hamaguchi’s drama, based on the story of the notorious Haruki Murakami, became one of the winners of the “Oscar 2022” last Sunday, grabbing a gold statuette in the nomination “Best Foreign Language Film”. We have already watched the film and in honor of its release in Russian cinemas we are ready to tell you why he deserved the award.
The Japanese are clearly ageless. At first it seems that Yusuke is 35 years old, but then the story makes him realize that he is not – here the age is much older.
Japan is a truly unique country, with its attitude to life, love and everything else. The same can be said about Japanese cinema. Having become famous in the world for its horrors such as “The Bell” and “Curse”, now the country of the Rising Sun seems ready to conquer fans of drama and melodrama.
The timing of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film is very impressive – three hours, but in the course of watching you begin to understand why it would not work in short. Although the picture is mainly focused on the character of Hidetoshi Nishima, there are a dozen heroes and heroines in it, who also receive full disclosure in the course of the story.
If I were asked to describe in a nutshell what this film was about, I would say – about life as it is. The director builds a solid plot framework on the screen, on which many life themes are strung. We are faced with the loss of a loved one, and thoughts of infidelity, and the clash of two men who love one woman, and even the inside of theatrical life, in which they started an interesting experiment. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
What can be expected from the revelations of two men who do not hesitate to admit to each other that they loved the same woman?
The plot juggles characters and plot twists and turns, but it does so so gently and carefully that you don’t just get into what is happening – you start to trust the director’s story, and sincerely empathize with the characters. The film crew under the direction of the director has created a really strong and at the same time calm, even meditative project, in which there is no hysteria and tension, but at the same time every emotion is felt especially sharply and palpably.
The Russian audience will be surprised to note that the film pays a lot of attention to Russian classics – in particular, one of the crowning works of the protagonist and his new production is “Uncle Vanya” by Chekhov. Inspiration from Russian classics runs through the whole picture with a noticeable red thread, which once again can not but please the fact how much we respect and love the golden fund of our literature abroad.
Theatrical cuisine and its processes occupy an important place in the narrative. This is how the Japanese see “Uncle Vanya” on their stage (at least in the director’s interpretation of the picture).
The protagonist at some point realizes that he is experiencing the same emptiness that sounds in the lines of Chekhov’s hero, and therefore refuses to play him in a new production. He is not left with regrets about the past and open questions. It would seem that they had a happy family life. But why did she change? Did their daughter’s death affect them that way? And is he really to blame for the fact that everything fell apart before her death?
From here, he chooses to follow a path that many may not have chosen in his place. What else can make a man want to know more about who his wife cheated on him with shortly before his death? And to trust the girl who is behind the wheel of your car, not allowing you to be left alone with the only gift of his late wife – a cassette with remarks, which she herself recorded on a dictaphone?
The storyline of Yusuku and his girlfriend-driver Misaki can rightly be considered the most powerful and piercing in the whole picture.
And the name, by the way, is quite justified, because a solid part of the events takes place in the car of the protagonist. The most insightful and philosophical dialogues take place in the cabin of the old red Saab. The characters decide on the revelations at the moment when the wheels are spinning furiously and carrying the car on the Japanese highway. Through dialogues, the script tries to answer the questions asked by themselves, but it turns out that each viewer will interpret the answer independently.
The theater also plays an important role here, because although Yusuke can no longer drive his vehicle (this was the condition of the theater, which hired a driver for him), but he still has control over another “car”. Seeing the script read by actors in different languages (including even sign language) at one table, you realize how unusual the world of art is and how many more surprises it can present.
Among the actors in the play “Uncle Vanya” is a place for an actress who speaks Korean sign language. And the sentimentality of this branch of the plot does not occupy.
Despite his Japanese origins, Haruki Murakami’s expanded vision of the story looks incredibly authentic and “native” to Russia. In some places you involuntarily catch yourself thinking that such a story could take place in both Moscow and Novosibirsk (except that not everywhere there were such good roads). A difficult past, the loss of loved ones, self-doubt and decisions, resentment of loved ones and a lack of understanding of how this life works in general – aren’t all of these familiar to all of us?
Since there are many hot topics involved in the film, the main idea is not as easy to grasp as it seems. For me personally, it looks like this – no matter what happens, you just need to live on. Overcome, step over your own pain and open your heart to the “tomorrow” that will come at dawn. You can endlessly dig into the past and try to find guesses where they have not been for a long time, but only by releasing it, there will be a chance to find something.
Such films need to be watched more often. It is such a movie that makes you slow down at a frantic pace of life, pause yourself and indulge in thinking about things that on ordinary days there is simply no time or desire. At a time when everything is falling apart and tomorrow does not bode well, there is a way to deal with it – only if it suits you, only you can understand. And only after the titles begin to appear on the screen. Great job. We recommend.
If you missed the last Oscar and do not know who received the statuettes in the main nominations, in addition to the film Hamaguchi – then read our special material on the winners and triumphs of the award.