From the outset, what you see is the wife "being annoying" giving a ton of comments, being sort of a “backseat driver” but also commenting on amazing things she sees (stork’s nest), pointing them out to the husband. The husband, a taciturn man, a bit annoyed, kind of snaps at her. But this is brief, and almost immediately (at 1:04) he shows concern for his wife’s affairs (“did you remember your social security card?”), and she sort of snaps back at him a bit (“I’m in the database anyway”), but he’s like “still, better to have it with you”. An old married couple bickering, maybe, but they care about each other (not so obvious in regards to her until later, at least the first time I watched it). The effect though is for the audience to feel her as annoying. It's intentional.
At 1:18, she comments that she cant remember her doctor’s name after 20 years of going to him, and so fortunate they haven’t needed to see him very often. (I think this is a first clue to her illness, which I didn’t catch the first couple times)
When the scene changes at ~1:35, they are wearing different clothing. Her face looks a bit more ragged, a bit more serious/forlorn/tense. She’s a backseat driver again, worse than ever. He gets so annoyed that he says he’ll have to record her sometime so she can hear how annoying her nonstop commentary is. This time, she doesn’t really comment on glorious things anymore, though. She comments on girls dressing too lightly (revealing), and scolds them (to her husband) because they’ll catch cold and wont be able to have babies (lol). (She’s concerned about health. Perhaps something going on with hers? She’s probably been diagnosed already.) She’s going to another doctor’s appointment. They both snap at each other, but notice, they actually help each other out – she with the map/directions, he with folding the map when she is trying to get out. I think they both were in a crappy mood there, because of her new diagnosis; that stress came through as their particular annoyance with each other that day.
Scene change at 3:48. Wearing different clothes, he’s in a T-shirt, it’s Spring or Summer. (he was in a turtleneck last two scenes). She starts up again with the back seat driving. He makes good on his vow, and without a word, whips out the voice recorder (lol). At first, she sort of catches herself and is sort of hesitant to speak, but her nature takes over and she just cant help it…. (you can kind of see that both of them are trying hard to keep from busting out laughing!). Then, at 5:07 we find out why, just WHY she does that back seat driving. (that was such a sweet moment for me! My first runthrough, that’s when I did a double take and realized what was really going on underneath the bickering
). All of her backseat driving is aimed at keeping him from getting into situations that will stress him out. And that, to her, takes precedence over proving something to the voice recorder
. And I think deep down he knows it too, they both know that they look out for each other.
~5:27 is where if you didn’t catch it sooner (I didn’t the first time), you can see she’s sick – she looks more haggard, she has a permanent IV in her hand, and they’re driving to some hospital in the middle of nowhere for treatment. She sounds more nervous, talking nonstop, he’s just not saying anything.
The next couple scenes, she’s wearing a scarf, she looks progressively sicker, and the talking balance shifts gradually… she becomes too weak to talk, to where she is basically barely able to stay awake (6:00), and he takes over doing pretty much talking nonstop and even annoying her with the talking. She’s breathing shallowly, there’s gurgling noises. At this point it’s obvious she has cancer, is going through chemo, has complications, she’s in a wheelchair already. She knows she doesn’t have long (she gives him that “look” in the car, like that might be the last time she sees him, and worried how is he going to be all by himself).
She got him an early birthday present (because she may not make it til then). The birthday present is again, out of her concern for him -- him getting lost without her, seeing as she’s always handling the map, etc. And she’s SO EXCITED about him having this gift!! (that was so moving, so overwhelming to me!). He shows some annoyance with the gift – it may superficially seem like he’s grumbling about the money she spent, but he’s not. The way I saw it, he’s trying to be in denial about how little time she has left. He doesn’t want to think about her dying (that’s basically what the gift is saying, loud and clear!). It’s so obvious how much they love each other under the curt jabs (which they are still doing even then!). IDK where they were going… nursing home maybe? Hospice? Not clear.
At 8:29 - Some unspecified amount of time later – autumn – we can see she has already passed. He’s finally put up the GPS for the first time (probably didn’t do it right away, I’m sure), missing her, and probably hoping that it would bring her closer to him, but it doesn’t… It makes things worse… it makes her absence even more painful because that GPS is nothing like her. Her directions were filled with love; not the same with the GPS.
While throwing the GPS into the glove compartment, he accidentally encounters that voice recorder! Sounds like they recorded more than just that one car trip, too. And thus, the voice recorder which originated in his moment of irritation, becomes a source of comfort for him -- it’s his wife speaking to him, her presence! And I think …did he actually have the GPS programmed with her voice/style?? (and additional commentary – “Look! A rainbow!!”) lol that was so adorable.