Drive My Car: First Japanese Movie to Bag Four Oscar Nominations

On 8th February 2022, the Oscar released its nominations, and native Japan was one of the pleasant recognition. Among that surprising yet fun tenure, a Japanese story turned film, ‘Drive My Car,’ bagged a total of four nominations in Oscar. 

At the moment, ‘Drive My Car’ is the second Asian Oscar entry in the last four years after ‘Parasite,’ a 2019 South-Korean movie directed by Bong Joon Ho.

Likewise, this movie got a nomination in the Best Picture category and, therefore, joins an elite but growing club of foreign-language films. ASIANS IN RISING, EH!!

“I was really interested in the relationship between the two characters. But I knew that I would have to expand things because there wasn’t enough material to fill a two-hour film.”
-Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Drive My car bags Oscar nomination
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My car bags Oscar nomination

Overview of ‘Drive My Car’

Ryusuke Hamaguchi co-wrote and directed Drive My Car, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami.

This two-hour film is highly praised in the field, where it depicts the life story of Yûsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima). Here, Nishijima is a stage actor and director happily married to his playwright wife. 

Well, the duo previously lost a four-year-old daughter to pneumonia. As the story develops, within two years of their marriage, Yûsuke’s wife abruptly disappears (classic of Murakami’s work, if you were aware already)

Right then, Yûsuke gets in charge of the multi-lingual production of “Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima.

It was right then that he grapples with the death of his wife, Oto. During their ongoing story, Yûsuke and his wife, Oto, go through several incidents and hurdles in life. 

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Production and Release

Ryusuke Hamaguchi co-wrote this film with Takamasa Oe, which is based on the short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami from his 2014 short story collection, Men Without Women.

As a fun fact, the film was originally set in Busan, South Korea, but was changed to Hiroshima due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, they had named the film after the Beatles’ song “Drive My Car.” (Yes, another common thing in Murakami’s work.)

Initially, the film was premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in competition for the Palme d’Or.

With a rating of 8.6/10, the film got 145 positive reviews and defined it as “universal acclaim.”

“Exceptionally well-written, with sharp insights on love, loss, marriage, grief, truths on stage and off, and what we may — or may not — know about those closest to us.”
– Deadline’s review, Pete Hammond 

‘Drive My Car’ – Road to Oscar

Today, ‘Drive My Car’ is nominated in the Best Director category among Japanese filmmakers. Besides, Hamaguchi and Oe became the first Japanese individuals to win the Best Screenplay Award at Cannes.

Not to mention, it also got shortlisted at the 94th Academy Awards as the Best International Feature Film in 2021.

The cast stars of Drive My Car
The cast stars of Drive My Car

In the meantime, the 79th Golden Globe Awards selected the Japanese movie as the Best Foreign Language Film.

Altogether, it is also the first non-English-language film of the only six to win Best Picture from all three major U.S. critics groups. 

Well, the other four nominations it gained during the Oscars are as follows;

  • Best Picture
  •  Hamaguchi for Best Director 
  • Best International Feature Film
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 

Behind The Scenes of Movie Production of ‘Drive My Car’

Since its inception, Murakami’s work has garnered specific cults of its own. But despite that, many have found it tough to interpret his masterpiece into a short movie, let alone a full-length movie.

As the original story ended in the middle, Hamaguchi had to work on the ending with a unique worldview. In addition, he also had to extend the storyline, enough for a full-length movie. 

Furthermore, the original plot of the story creates a load of flashbacks; however, Hamaguchi chose to portray the movie in chronological order. 

Picture from Drive My Car
Picture from Drive My Car

“Flashbacks are basically used to explain what has happened. I don’t know if that’s really the richest way to use time, to use it for explanatory purposes. So I created this movie so that the flashbacks would be created by the viewers themselves.”
– Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Also, Hamaguchi commenced working on this particular movie after the producers asked if he wanted to direct a movie from one of Murakami’s short stories. 

Therewith, after in-depth research and knowledge, Hamaguchi suggested “Drive My Car,” that he had read about eight years ago. 

And it seemed like Murakami himself watched the movie in a local theatre and enjoyed it. 

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