Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy / 偶然と想像 - Movie Review

The Movie: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy / 偶然と想像

The Director: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

The Cast: Kotone Furukawa, Ayumu Nakajima, Hyunri, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Katsuki Mori, Shouma Kai, Fusako Urabe, Aoba Kawai

The Story: An unexpected love triangle, a failed seduction trap, and an encounter that results from a misunderstanding, told in three movements to depict three female characters and trace the trajectories between their choices and regrets.

The Review:
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's two previous films, Happy Hour and Asako I & II, are both fascinating explorations of love and relationships that dig deep into the psychology of human emotions in ways we don't normally see. His films are far from cookie cutter, paint by numbers narratives that the Hollywood machine churns out in overabundance year after year. These are thought provoking films that give you a chance to explore perspectives and ideas and people that are uncommon and sometimes not the friendliest or most likeable yet still endlessly interesting nonetheless.

"Sometimes, I wonder why I'm here. I could've become anything, but time flew past before I knew."

That quote, which comes from a character in the third act of the film, struck me pretty deep down in my core and I think it's a thought most, if not all of us, can relate to. To clarify, this movie is split into three distinct stories that narratively do not intersect in any way yet they share the bond of embodying all the things I had mentioned in the first paragraph. Each story focuses on a woman who must make a decision, or decisions, about their love life that will have a profound impact on those around them.

I think the first story, titled Magic (or Something Less Assuring), is the most biting as we see a young woman take advantage of a discovery that puts her squarely in the middle of, and really in control of, a love triangle of sorts. After having supposedly moved on from her ex boyfriend, she decides to go after him after discovering that her friend is now dating the man. The resulting confrontations are frustrating because they feel so unnecessary and yet Hamaguchi finds ways to have us understand the decisions and even relate to them because they might be something we might do ourselves, or maybe have done, when we let emotions take over.

The second story, which is called Door Wide Open, carries on the theme of bad decisions being made by putting a married woman who is already having an affair into a situation where she is persuaded to do something that will hurt the life and career of another. The conversation she ends up having, no more details as I don't want to spoil anything, is a revelation in peeling back layers of, I guess I'll say humanity. I don't really know how else to describe it without revealing what happens, I'll just say it's one of the most interesting cinematic conversations I have seen in some time.

Finally we have Once Again, the third and final chapter of this film and for me the best experience overall. After a college reunion event, Hamaguchi puts two women who knew each other during the college days into a chance meeting that ends up taking a very awkward turn when a discovery about them is made. Again, not going to reveal what that is because the discovery is essential to the story working as well as it does but it's one of those "Holy crap!" moments that take the story into a completely different direction.

The director thankfully ends this final story, and the entire film, with a very warm and satisfying feeling that leaves you with a sense of faith in people and even in yourself when it comes to the decisions we make that involve relationships and emotional stuff like that. Another excellent work of art from a director that continues to travel his own path when it comes to exploring the most human facets of cinematic storytelling.

The Verdict:
Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is the latest and maybe the best film from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi as he continues his exploration of the hearts and minds of human beings. The movie is split into three distinct parts yet the director keeps them woven together with emotional threads that end up feeling like that warm and comfy blanket you love to curl up with.

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