Ryusuke Hamaguchi stealth released two films in one year. His “other” film being the Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, a methodical exploration of character that’s so honest with itself, paced so deliberately to invoke connection and a sense of realism. The anthology structure lets Hamaguchi grapple heavily with the themes through a variety of situations and characters. It’s a more full understanding of Hamaguchi’s messaging and one that leaves a deep impression on people willing to engage with the rhythms of the filmmaking.
Immediately from the opening – an extended car ride scene with an intensely personal and authentic discussion between Meiko (Kotone Furukawa) and Tsugumi (Hyunri) – I was hooked into the flow of the film and then the script subverted all expectations. The character changes in the writing are unbelievably evocative and present almost surreal like dynamics between people. The first vignette (Magic “or something Less Assuring”) was magic. The dynamics at play in the writing were cleverly cast, willingly manipulating audience expectation. Hamaguchi is so direct in his wiring, unafraid to exist in the uncomfortable.
Moreover, a film that’s unenthused by the unexpected miracle. The small mishaps in life that lead to self discovery. The unspoken bond of humanity, sharing the many facets of existence unknowingly. Finding connection, loss, betrayal, and the unexplainable. Encroaching on characters at their innermost personal.
Unfortunately, the final two vignettes aren’t quite as enticing, but they’re still contributing in many ways to the larger themes. The final vignette, “Once Again,” presents a unique situation that’s never been approached in this manner. The subversive writing makes this memorable, but it’s the minor details that make this lasting.