A gentle exploration of the complexities of the human heart, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is a balm for the soul.
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What length would you go to for love? In this anthology, director Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour, NZIFF 2016) weaves a triptych of fate, mystery, and the things we leave unsaid. Following the charged encounters of three women – Meiko, Nao, and Moka – the film showcases the power of Hamaguchi’s storytelling, and his innate ability to bring out thrilling yet nuanced performances from his cast.
The first chapter, Magic (or Something Less Assuring), eases us in with a style that almost feels documentary. Seated in the back of a cab, we feel as if we are present during an intimate conversation between friends Meiko and Tsugumi about the new man in Tsugumi’s life. But just as we relax into the slow cinema-esque flow, Meiko does a 180, setting her sights on a ghost of her past.
Door Wide Open, possibly the most controversial of the three, considers the power dynamics at play in both professional and personal relationships. Goaded into a plot of sexual extortion against her lover’s former professor, Nao opens up a frank discussion of sex and pleasure with her target that is both titillating and thoughtful… but the afterglow will not last.
Then like a warm hug, Once Again places the cherry on top with a story of mistaken identity and longing. Based in a future where a super-virus has pushed the world offline, a chance meeting at a train platform sets Moka and Nana down a path of schoolgirl nostalgia. That is until Moka senses she’s said too much, and what follows is the film’s most emotional and uplifting moments. An absolute gem, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is a film that will restore your faith in magic. — Kailey Carruthers