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  Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy Modern Life Is Awkward
Year: 2021
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Stars: Kotone Furakawa, Ayumu Nakajima, Hyunri, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Katsuki Mori, Shouma Kai, Fusako Urabe, Aoba Kawai
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here are three stories on the subject of chance of coincidence, or the lack of it. The first concerns a model and her dresser who after a successful day of photography chat in the taxi back to their respective homes, and the dresser admits she has found someone who may be Mister Right. The second is about a student who bears a grudge against a professor who he feels ruined his chances at better results, and leaps at the chance to humiliate him months later. The third is about a high school reunion, The Class of '98, which for one former pupil doesn’t turn out so well because basically, nobody recognised her...

Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi had a very prosperous 2021, which translated into a successful 2022 as the awards season garlanded him with gongs. Drive My Car was the film that garnered most of the attention, well, it was a behemoth compared to this slighter work at just two hours in length, but Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy picked up admirers as well, with some finding it fashionable to say it was the better work in comparison. Though technically it was a trilogy of separate stories that assembled this way gave the impression of having more in common than they may initially appear to share.

There was that element of chance, that musing over the road not taken, and of how a simple decision on the spur of the moment could spark a drastic set of circumstances that changed your life path, but then again, you could say that about a lot of films, a lot of stories full stop. The first sees the model (Kotone Furakawa) revealing herself to be more than a little unbalanced when she realises the man her best friend is seeing is actually her ex-boyfriend who she split up with after she cheated on him. Though given she is plainly obsessed with him, you wait in vain for an explanation about why she made such a stupid mistake.

The temptations of fate, you see. Or the fate of temptations. The second story, after that comparatively snappy opener, does drag somewhat, Hamaguchi evidently not listening to that advice to directors that you should enter a scene late and leave early. The third story suffers from that as well, but that also has a certain charm, and the second is pretty harsh despite some regarding it as the comedy of the trio. The student organises his older girlfriend, also studying there, to use as a honeytrap but things do not go as planned, as she actually likes the older gentleman and they make a connection in his office without any seduction. That this was resolved with the innocents punished and the schemer prospering definitely had a real-life punch to it, mind you.

But the third story, where lonely lesbian Moka (Fusako Urabe) fumbles her class reunion when the lost love she really wanted to see never showed up, is of a different tone to the others, and sweeter as a result. The next day she is on an escalator at the station when she sees the woman in question going the other way, and makes a big song and dance about contacting her after all this time. She ends up going back to her well-furnished house which she shares with her family (quite a contrast with the bedsitter Moka lives in) and they chat warmly, until a bombshell is dropped - wait a minute, who are you supposed to be, anyway?! This was set in a near future where a virus has made the internet unusable, for some reason, which has less to do with the plot that you might anticipate, but it was the tentative relationship and the realisation of a new friendship that made it cheering, pacing issues aside. Overall... maybe it was a bit better than Drive My Car, after all.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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