Love Scenes: The serendipity of ‘Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy’

A movie recommendation for Valentine's Day - an anthology film with a tantalising exploration of the role of coincidence in love

Zareef Daian
Published : 11 Feb 2024, 01:57 PM
Updated : 11 Feb 2024, 01:57 PM

Love Scenes is a column recommending movies with intriguing takes on love and romance for the week of Valentine’s Day.

Across three short tales, the 2021 Japanese film Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy asks the tantalising question, “What is our experience of love if not a sequence of coincidences, both fortuitous and unfortunate?”

In the first story, a gossip session between two friends grows uncomfortable when it turns out one of them is dating the other’s ex. In the second, a student convinces his girlfriend to seduce his teacher in an attempt at blackmail. In the third, an unexpected reunion between school friends takes a surprising twist into interrogating old memories.

These aren’t typical romances. Instead, they are stories that raise questions about the changeability of our notions of love and their intersections with circumstance.

Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s style is understated, slightly arch, and unusually fluid, perfect for narratives where seemingly mundane events make sudden leaps into unexpected emotional turmoil. Sometimes it feels like a selection of literary short stories by an author known for their deft and effortless designs.

The interactions between the characters have a sense of realism, but the stories themselves lean gently into serendipity. Despite their initially grounded nature, they have a touch of the fantastic, giving them a universality akin to folklore.

Each story takes a different tack on the question of love in the modern world, slowly peeling back layers to reveal the vulnerability and occasionally unsettling chaos underneath.

The characters work their way through philosophical questions on the nature of love that are both magnificently grand and quietly intimate, through twists and turns that are surprising but quite resonant.

The film opens and closes on Schumann’s "Kinderszenen", a musical motif that acts as prelude and conclusion to stories of love lost, found, and imagined. It is an apt choice – discreet yet deeply meaningful.

Through these stories, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy offers an unusual but compelling perspective to scrutinise our deepest fears and desires. And, despite its intellectual bent, it remains tender and welcoming.

The movie stands as a reminder that love, in its various manifestations, moulds our realities.

Love, like the titular wheel, is unpredictable. But, it is a truth of human nature, that most of us are determined to give it a spin.

So, when we find moments of connection, even with strangers, let us embrace the opportunity, if only for a moment. You never quite know where you’ll end up.  

This article is part of Stripe,'s special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.