This long segment — nearly eight minutes total — introduces the audience to the most important relationship in “Drive My Car,” that between Kafuku and his driver, Misaki Watari. It begins with Kafuku’s discomfort, perhaps because it’s a woman who has been hired to chauffeur him.

Bordering on rudeness, Kafuku’s first words to Watari are that he has not agreed to hiring her as his driver. He even questions letting her test drive him on the first trip to his island rental property, saying that the car is old and quirky. But Watari remains poised and says that if he notices anything dangerous about her driving, he can take the wheel at that time. Kafuku agrees.

The driving sequences are subtle, but display some clear acumen on Watari’s part. She executes a precise three point turnabout to exit the parking lot, then maintains a steady 10-2 grip of the steering wheel, just as my driving instructor Coach Bunyard taught me in Driver’s Ed class. She also gives ample advance warning to cars she’s about to pass with her turn signals. Kafuku becomes comfortable with her driving and then asks her to put on Oto’s cassette tape.

At this point, Kafuku carries on one of his most angry proxy arguments with his dead wife, via Vanya. It’s Vanya’s famously self pitying “I could have been another Schopenhauer or Dostoyevski speech (and hearing it again, I wonder if this inspired the “I coulda been a contender” speech from Brando in “On the Waterfront.”)

By now it’s clear that Kafuku would still much rather rehash that argument with Oto that never happened than interact with a real, live human being. The scene ends with him apologizing to Watari for their early 8 a.m. start the next day — the closest he is ready to get at this point to telling her she’s earned the job.

Driving Test