3ft Ball & Souls (2018)
Film review #596
Director: Yoshio Kato
SYNOPSIS: Four people arrange in an online chat room to undertake a group suicide. They meet in an isolated shed where one of them has brought a huge ball of fireworks to explode along with them. When the last person arrives, they realise that she is just a high school student, and the three other adults try to talk her out of it. She refuses and sets off the fireworks, but this sends the other three back in time as they all arrive at the shed. They deduce that the reason they are being sent back is because that Tsukiko, the schoolgirl, is there, and so they try and persuade her to leave before they can end their own lives…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: 3ft Ball & Souls is a 2018 film. The setup of the film is fairly simple: four people, who meet in an online chat room, and agree to commit suicide together. Meeting up in a shed, one of the participants brings with him a huge fireworks ball, which he intends to explode with them all inside the shed. One by one the people arrive, until the final person arrives: a schoolgirl named Tsukiko. Uncomfortable with her joining their plan, the other three try to convince her to leave, but she is adamant she wants to go through with it, taking the detonator and setting it off. This, however, causes time to go back to before everyone gathers. As time loops at this point again and again, the three people believe that the loop is being caused by the schoolgirl’s presence, and try to convince her to leave so they can break the loop. The premise of the film is fairly simple: taking place almost entirely in this small shed, the three participants try to convince the schoolgirl to leave, with each participant recognising they are in a loop at different points of the film. The story takes an in-depth look at it’s topic of suicide that is serious and frank, with a sprinkle of light-humour to round out the characters. The sparse and limited setting supports the tone by proving few distractions, and setting the four characters around this giant ball of fireworks, which leaves them little room to hide.
As the film progresses, we learn a little about each of the characters and the reasons which have led them to this point. The story is well paced and provides enough insight into each of the characters to get you into their state of mind. The irony of these three people so willing to end their own lives trying to convince Tsukiko to not do it herself is not lost on the film, and even though everyone is the same position, they are still there for vastly different reasons, so their words don’t necessarily resonate with one another.
The film’s weaknesses are that while the film does have an in-depth dive into the topic of suicide, it lacks a kind of profound emotional depth that I think it wants to go for. It has it’s moments for sure, but overall it’s missing something to tie everything together. maybe it’s because the characters all have these very distinct personalities and reasons for being there with no overlap, which makes it obvious they are actual scripted characters. There’s also a very cultural aspect of how suicide is perceived and dealt with in japan, so you might miss a certain element of the film if you’re not well-versed in it. I think the weakest aspect of the film is the ending. Without spoiling, it ties everything together a bit too neatly, and it is one of those rare films where it would have been better if the film ended about five minutes earlier in a more ambiguous way that was still positive, but without over indulging the point. The strongest moment of the film comes near the end, when the three participants have run out of reasons and arguments to dissuade Tsukiko from going through with it, being left with the sole reason that they don’t want her to.
Overall, I thought 3ft Ball & Souls was a good film that has a good story that is well told and set up; dealing with a topic that is hard to deal with. The characters play well off of each other, and have a decent amount of depth too. The ending is a bit too simplistic and well-rounded to really gel with the rest of the film, but it doesn’t detract too much from the net positive of the film’s story, pacing and characters.