Saturday, October 23, 2021

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Review: A Subtle, Brilliant, and Layered Relationship Drama

Release date: October 15, 2021
Running time: 121 minutes
Director: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi 

An unexpected love triangle, a failed seduction, and a chance encounter with the past. Propelled by coincidence and imagination, and guided by love’s gentle current, acclaimed director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour, Asako I & II) returns with an enchanting triptych that spins mundane encounters into a world of infinite possibilities. In Episode 1: Magic (or Something Less Assuring), a young woman is startled when she realizes that her best friend’s new flame might just be her ex; in Episode 2: Door Wide Open, a disgruntled student plots to trick his college professor, using his friend-with-benefits as bait; and in Episode 3: Once Again, a girl’s college reunion leads to an unanticipated run-in with an old friend, and awakens feelings long since forgotten. Playfully inspired by life’s tiny miracles, and bound together by memory, regret, deception, and fate, Hamaguchi leaves no stone unturned in his quest to chart the ever-deepening mysteries of the all-too-human heart.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is not going to be for everyone, in fact it will likely not be for many people.  But for those that stick with it, you get a brilliant, layered relationship film that explores some unconventional friendships and some topics that Japanese cinema normally avoids.  The three stories were slow but they had plenty of depth in their characters and the dialogue.  And they do give some interesting insights into relationships and people's need for connection and love.  I really liked seeing how the different stories evolved because it was never the same as what you would expect.

And through the three, I think the middle story is the strongest.  I loved the conversation between the professor and the lady, their conversation was nuanced and charged with a ton of great imagery.  But each of these stories has something to offer and by including all three, the viewer is able to experience very different, discrete situations all dealing with one overarching idea.  Despite some of the stories seeming to have unnecessary setup, they each offer something different and unique.  And in the end, you are left with a sense of wonder and sadness, which is what the film goes for.  The conclusory story, however, also gives you a sense of hope.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy uses its three distinct stories to give insights into love, relationships, and our need for connection by discussing topics that are not normally looked at in Japanese cinema.

Watch it.

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Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is available in virtual cinemas.  For showtimes, click here

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