Some time after the death of his wife, theater director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is hired for a production of”Uncle Vanya” in Hiroshima… but he’s forced to accept a young woman (Toko Miura) to drive him around there in his own car. Running three hours long, and taking its time unfolding the story, this critical darling has nevertheless been impressively expanded from the source novella, absorbing the Chekhov classic into a meditation on grief and relationships, cleverly using a vintage red Saab 900 Turbo as a way to connect locations and poignant moments between characters. In many scenes, the film is quietly moving, sweet or disturbing.
2021-Japan. 179 min. Color. Produced by Teruhisa Yamamoto. Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. Screenplay: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe. Short Story: Haruki Murakami. Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima (Yusuke Kafuku), Toko Miura (Misaki Watari), Masaki Okada (Koji Takatsuki), Reika Kirishima, Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon.
Trivia: Original title: Doraibu mai ka.
Oscar: Best International Feature. Golden Globe: Best Non-English Language Picture. BAFTA: Best Film Not in the English Language. Cannes: Best Screenplay.
Last word: “Because of the pandemic, we ended up having an eight-month break in our shoot, and that allowed for time for preparation. It also allowed for time for the actor Park Yu-rim to be able to also practice Korean sign language, to train for Korean sign language, because she originally didn’t use Korean sign language to begin with. So that time was really necessary. Now that I think about it, if we had really gone according to the original schedule, I don’t think we would’ve been able to shoot what we did end up shooting. And I’ve been talking about this with my producer, of just how lucky we were for the production to be able to have this time.” (Hamaguchi, A.V. Club)