Drive My Car: Our Review of ‘The Plains’

Posted in Mubi by - April 12, 2023
Drive My Car: Our Review of ‘The Plains’

David Easteal’s The Plains shows its viewers that we can learn about characters in a film. This is true even if it delivers that information in an unconventional way. After all, to say that 70% of the film are a series of long takes at the back seat of someone’s car feels generous. But that back seat footage proves adequate, if not more. That footage helps us learn a lot of about Andrew (Andrew Rakowski). He’s a barrister who, through phone calls through his car’s Bluetooth system, checks in on his wife and mother. Scenes begin after 5, when he gets off work. Sometimes, he’s alone, but at other times, he gives a ride to one of his coworkers, David (Easteal), and those conversations reveal a lot about both men but mostly Andrew.

The title of The Plains¬†refers to an area in Victoria, Australia. The film shows that area through drone footage with varying quality. These plains are a haunting and mysterious place where the only people in sight is a woman who is probably Andrew’s mostly offscreen wife Cheri (Cheri LeCornu). Viewers barely see this area, instead, most of what we see are the freeways in Greater Melbourne where he works. But those plains are in his and our minds as he talks about the pressures he faces at work. We think of the place that Andrew talks about in fleeting moments, where he’d rather be. Although at other times, the film takes our mind off of heavier subject matter and gives more insight at Andrew’s more obscure interests like cars.

What makes character studies great are the details it gathers that complement the environment shaping the person whom the viewers are spending a lot of time with. In The Plains‘ case, its’s a film clocking in at almost three hours where we realize that Australia gets dark during the winter for one month in a year as opposed to three or more here. But most of these details are closer to the person whom the film allows us to observe. We barely see his entire face but we know that his behaviour when he’s alone and when he’s with David is similar, which makes for a great character choice. But come to think of it, the important people in his life are a clock away.

The Plains meticulously document each ride. It’s interesting to me specifically that none of conversations between him and David cross any lines. Even if yes, both know way too much about each other as each ride takes place. Andrew even discusses old Melbourne. And it’s personally interesting that suburban sprawl also infected Australia and it’s something that people over there also resent. Andrew and David are a generation apart and they bring up their differences occasionally. However, those differences are never as seismic as the differences between people in the real world. The fact that these two characters are too similar may be a bigger nitpick in another film. But there’s something about the execution here that makes me happy that these two men found each other.

Watch The Plains on MUBI.

  • Release Date: 4/12/2023
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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