‘Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy’ Review: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi Film Centers The Lives Of Women

Was Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (director of the Drive My Car, which won best screenplay at Cannes) referencing the tarot when he wrote his Berlinale Silver Bear winning, and 2021 New York Film Festival selection, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy?

According to Tarot.com the wheel of fortune card in the upright position signifies change. The wheel turns in one continuous motion, churning events in a ceaseless progression of ups and downs, thus freeing us from the past. No one can escape its cyclical action. Hamaguchi weaves the same concept of the movement of time into this film which contains three short stories that follow the lives of women who are navigating love, loss, reconnection, and letting go.

Magic (Or something Less Assuming) is the first entry, and it follows Meiko (Kotone Furukawa) as she taunts and gaslights her ex-boyfriend Kazuaki (Ayumu Nakajima), who now has feelings for her best friend Tsugumi (Hyunri).  The second short is called Open Door which is centered around a woman named Nao (Katsuki Mori) who tries to seduce the professor who gave her boyfriend bad grades. The last segment is a story about reconnection. In Once Again, Moka (Fusako Urabe) aims to reunite with her high school sweetheart Nana (Aoba Kawai).

Hamaguchi is a master of character development. Even in the short duration of each segment, the wants and desires of each character are accessible to the viewer. In the selfish pursuit of love, Meiko learns the meaning of selflessness. Despite her nefarious motives, Nao finds someone she can be genuine with, and Moka finally expresses her true feelings for Nana. Their lives and situations seem simple, but the director/writer used these narratives to create fascinating and strongly written female characters. These three have a sense of purpose. The trio knows what they want and makes no apologies for it, even if it isn’t always for the greater good.

The actresses are relaxed and fluid with their expressions and body language as they glide from scene to scene, and further enhanced by Hamaguchi’s intoxicating direction. He creates a sense of intimacy is created between the audience and the character and creates a relationship of care between the two.

Fantasy is the lies we tell ourselves, and fortune is when we reveal the truth. The wheel is in constant motion. Womanhood is challenging to navigate as the pressures of life can be overwhelming. However, as the main characters of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy mature and move on, they realize and verbalize how they feel about themselves and others–without judgment.

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