Best Screenplay

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe
Drive My Car

A man stands apart from his wife. Turning away from her, he’s safe knowing she hasn’t caught a glimpse of him — she’s too busy making love to her coworker. This scene is at the heart of Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, a film written with deep curiosity about people, art and language; a screenplay open to the endless mysteries, absences and voids left by all of the above. Nested within this script are two other works of art: a fictional one, a screenplay that Oto (Reika Kirishima) dictates to her husband, Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), during sex, and an actual one — Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.

In the latter half of the film, Kafuku, a theater director, begins to share his most private thoughts with his highly skilled driver, a young, expressionless woman called Misaki (Tôko Miura). For the entirety of his artist’s residency in Hiroshima, Misaki drives Kafuku in his red Saab; the residency doesn’t allow participants to drive themselves after a previous tragedy. Their conversations rehash their own previous tragedies. In fact, the irrevocable past both haunts and emboldens everyone in Drive My Car, which Hamaguchi adapted from Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name as well as from other stories in the collection the piece comes from, Men Without Women.

Without” is the operative word here: How do we stitch together the absences and abandonments of our lives? In watching Drive My Car, you participate in devising an endless string of answers.

Cassie da Costa