‘Drive My Car’ Ending, Explained: What Did The Red Saab 900 Symbolize?


“Drive My Car” has been directed by Ryusuke Hamaguche, and he has also co-written the screenplay with Takamasa Oe. The Japanese drama is adapted from Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, from his collection called “Men Without Women.”

There is a specialty to the characters and the world created by Haruki Murakami. The world he creates stands on the threshold where the metaphysical aspects cease to exist, and the spiritual reality spreads its arms in all directions. Often, the duality is not clearly demarcated, and the lines are blurry. There is an abundance of verbosity with little or no logic to back it up. His characters experience deafening silence. He palmates your moral parameters, where we often don’t leave even an ounce of doubt. The prolific writer ends up questioning the very existence of it.

Haruki Murakami has a knack for creating the best possible conflicts that drive the narrative ahead, bemusing and creating that space for doubt, multiple times. There is something about the narrative that is able to sow the seeds of an imagination in your mind, that ousts you of your beliefs but is still relatable. His characters often go through an epiphany that liberates them. They are not frightened by the truth as much as they are by not knowing it. It’s the obscurity that is the main source of fear. It is the trepidation that originates from a realization where you entertain the possibility that you might never be able to move on, and start running in a lucid dream, without knowing where to go and when to stop.

Let’s try to decipher the ending of “Drive My Car” and the convoluted inspirations of its characters.

See More: ‘Drive My Car’ Review: A Masterful Odyssey About Human Guilt, Loss And Return

‘Drive My Car’ Plot Summary

Yusuke Kafuku was a theatre artist and a writer who was married to Oto Kafuku, a screenplay writer. Oto had this weird habit of latching onto a spool of thread, mostly after a sexual encounter, and then spinning it off to create a narrative that was always given the late-night spot on television, as it ousted the society of its conscience. The couple were coping with the loss of their child. As Yusuke says, they were compatible with each other. Stories helped them cope with their loss and somewhat also bonded them.

Yusuke was called to judge the Vladivostok Theatre Festival, but he had to return from the airport since the festival was being rescheduled. He comes back home to find his wife making love with a television actor, Koji Takatsuki, whom Yusuke had met before. Without saying a word, he leaves the scene. He never confronts Oto, but one day she decides to have a conversation with him. She tells her husband that when he comes back from work, she would like to talk to him. That day, when Yusuke returned from his work, he found Oto lying on the floor. She had succumbed to a brain hemorrhage. Yusuke never gets to know what she wanted to tell him. Yusuke moves to Hiroshima to direct a play written by Anton Chekhov named Uncle Vanya. The theatre authorities had a policy that the director could not drive by himself. So a 23-year-old driver named Misaki Watari is appointed as Yusuke’s driver.

Koji also auditions for the role, and surprisingly Yusuke chooses him for the role of Uncle Vanya, a part that he was known for playing over the years.

Koshi Takatsuki
Credits: Bitters End

Major Spoilers Ahead

Did Yusuke And Oto Share A Deceptive Relationship?

Have you ever had that feeling when you hold up something for so long that you forget in which drawer of the cerebral closet you kept it? Yusuke Kafuku never liked confrontations. But somewhere, that led him to forget what it felt like to absorb an emotion and completely surrender to it. When you surrender in entirety, there is a freedom that you experience. You give a shout-out to the forces that you know are coming. There was a raging storm subdued somewhere, behind the phlegmatic-looking Kufaku. Yes, the storm was subdued, so much so that the waves were never able to caress the shore. But the intensity was strong enough to put multiple dents on the surface that contained it.

Oto started telling Yusuke a story that she could never finish. The story was about a girl, who was formerly a lamprey, who starts visiting Yamaga’s house, a boy she feels infatuated with.

She leaves something as a token every time she goes there. The boy never knew that she visited his house, as she used to trespass using the keys kept under the potted plant. One day, when she was inside, a visitor knocked on the door. Yusuke never gets to know who that intruder was. Oto narrated the same story to Koji Takatsuki. She had told him what happened after that. The intruder was not Yamaga or his father, but a burglar who had come to rape Oto. She stabs him multiple times with a pen. The girl knew that Yamaga would get to know about it, but the next day he did not confront her. He behaves as if nothing has happened. The girl gets confused and thinks she was hallucinating all this time, or did she actually kill a burglar? She goes to Yamaga’s house again to find that CCTV cameras have been installed there. Something terrible had happened, but the world around her carried on with its usual chores  as if nothing had changed.

Yusuke always thought that the day he confronted his wife, Oto, they would not be able to live together. He does not come to terms with his heart. He tries to decipher what is going on in his wife’s heart and then tries to mold his actions in accordance with that. He was an actor, so he put up a great performance. But somewhere down the line, he forgot that he was playing a character. He took it to be his reality. Yusuke Kafuku always believed that Oto had this small blind spot inside her where nobody could trespass. He knew her but never really understood her in entirety. He tried hard to understand her motivations but never really went for what he actually wanted. He always taught his students to yield themselves to the text, but he never gave up on his inclinations. He tamed his intuitions, which had the power to solve everything. It had the power to put an end to the deafening silence.

Oto wanted Yusuke to confront her. She wanted to feel the guilt. Being with other men came naturally to her, as loving Yusuke did. Maybe she was not concealing anything, as Misaki Watari suggests. Maybe she was genuinely like that.

Oto was stuck in a lucid dream, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t escape it. She was running in a loop. She knew for sure that the world around her had changed into something sinister, but nobody was blaming her. She wanted to shout out loud and take the responsibility. She was done pretending that nothing had happened.

Oto Kafuku
Credits: Bitters End

‘Drive My Car’ Ending Explained: What Did The Red Saab 900 Symbolize?

Yusuke Kafuku coincidentally met Misaki Watari. They didn’t realize it in the beginning, but they were going through a similar phase in their lives. Their stimulus to any event or thing was identical in nature.

They both knew what loss meant. In order to understand everyone, they both forgot to understand themselves. They were breathing, and maybe that was the only evidence of the fact that they were alive.

In a landslide, Misaki’s house had collapsed. She was able to come out, but her mother had died from the debris that fell on her. There was a moment when she could have gone and helped her mother, but she didn’t. Misaki never understood why she didn’t call for help that day. Yusuke tells her that had he been her father; he would definitely have told her that it was not her fault. He says he would have told her she was not to be blamed. But that drive that Yusuke and Misaki were taking together to the latter’s village had no room for a camouflaged reassurance that was hiding the harsh truth behind it. 

Misaki tells Yusuke about her mother’s mental disorder. She had a multiple personality disorder, and a personality named Sachi would frequently emerge. Sachi was eight years old, but she never aged. Her mother used to beat her up, and then Sachi would appear just after that. Misaki used to hold her tightly whenever she started crying. It felt as if the last droplets of whatever good was left in Misaki’s mother were condensed in Sachi. It was a wired space for a young Misaki to be in. She could not validate her feelings because they were so abstruse. She never treated Sachi as if she was born out of a mental deformity. She was so vulnerable and miserable that she found solace in those warm hugs. For that split second, she did evaluate going inside the debris and saving her mother, not because she wanted her alive but because she didn’t want to lose what she had with Sachi. 

It was an act of moral turpitude that she couldn’t make anyone understand until she met a broken soul that resembled her. She threw flowers at the chunk of debris that looked a lot like her shattered soul. She says she is dirty. But Yusuke embraces her with all her vulnerabilities and sorrows and, in the process, accepts his own too. Yusuke had realized that his wife loved him, and at the same time, she sought other men too. The two facets were among the countless others that human beings encapsulate within themselves. He realized that no one facet contradicted the other. They were independent in their existence. At that moment, Yusuke realizes that he never let himself get hurt properly. Yusuke never let his emotions get the better of him. He never submitted to his feelings. He always played on a presumption. He had avoided that confrontation, and now no matter how hard he tried, he could never have it. The certainty of the impossible made him suffocate. But you don’t feel bad for him at that moment, only because you are aware that he has finally felt something. He started noticing his feelings. He finally stopped obstructing its path, which he had done because of the looming fear of losing everything precious he had.

They both knew at that moment that they had to make peace with everything that had happened. They had to carry on. The loss they were experiencing was not going to go anywhere. They had to live with it. Life was just a synonym for endurance. They knew that one day they would get to rest, but before that, they had to live.

Misaki Watari
Credits: Bitters End

In the last scene of “Drive My Car,” we see Misaki driving the same red Saab 900 that Yusuke drove for years. He loved that car, maybe because he went into deep alleys and dark corners of his heart while he was inside it alone. When he got glaucoma, he was advised to not drive his car. He had a blind spot which had the potential to make him blind if not catered to. It was quite similar to what he felt his relationship with Oto was. But Misaki could see through it clearly. Maybe it was strange, but she never felt that Oto was deceiving Yusuke. Yusuke passed the mantle to Misaki. She drove ahead on her journey. Life was still hard. There was a lot of suffering. There was a lot of pain. But she knew that one day she would get a chance to rest. She had to drive her car up until that point.

See More: ‘Drive My Car’ Characters, Symbols and Stories, Explained

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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