"It really is the perfect vicarious experience after over a year of isolation, especially for those who moved and were robbed of a farewell event."
- Emily Austin
Wonderful Paradise by director Masashi Yamamoto is an absurd and comedic night of magic realism that throws everything and the kitchen sink at you. After a series of poor financial and life choices, patriarch Shuji Sasaya is selling the family mansion. In a spiteful last ditch effort to make some happy memories in her childhood home, his daughter Akane tweets a viral invitations that makes the soon-to-be vacated house the location of a party, a wedding, a funeral, a festival and then - well, it’s better you just see for yourself.
Lead actress Mayu Ozawa lovingly referred to the film as an “a level of mess she hadn't touched before” and director Yamamoto himself admitted the film “makes no sense.” They aren’t wrong, but the film has such a mischievous charm to it that any breaks from reality play without a hitch even when they aren’t fully fleshed out or wrapped up. From a child dissolving in the bathtub to a mysteriously peaceful coffee shop appearing mid-evening, the characters don’t question these things, and neither will you. This is especially true since the pace ramps up exponentially throughout the film - the crazier things get, the less time you have to reflect on them. In this way, Wonderful Paradise really captures that party feeling, but depending on their disposition, each viewer will walk away feeling either incredibly full or empty as a result.
That said, the cast give performances that really elevate the material, the humour is cathartic and the set design, effects, music and choreography all contribute to the pulsing, colourful energy of the film. It really is the perfect vicarious experience after over a year of isolation, especially for those who moved and were robbed of a farewell event. Like any party, there are moments of Wonderful Paradise that are so fun, they make you glad to be alive and others where you’ll wonder if it’s about time to pack it in, but if you stick around long enough, you’ll be sure to see some super weird stuff go down.
Wonderful Paradise is currently available to watch online, on demand through Fantasia Film Festival until August 25. If you’d like to experience how parties used to feel, we recommend you give this one a shot!