3ft Ball & Souls
Groundhog Day meets Suicide Club in this emotional Japanese genre mixup. Despite its sparse budget, cast and location, director Yoshio Kato instill repetition to invoke equal parts laughter and emotion. Transcending its means, 3 Ft Ball & Souls is an admirable addition to suicide/time loop movie canon as well as a directorial triumph.
Anonymous internet group members of “Life Club” meet in a shed for suicide by explosion via giant firework— the titular 3-foot ball. Their initial attempt triggers a time loop and the club members must figure out how to break the loop to kill themselves for good. Early repetitions provide some dark-tinged humor delivered with atypical subtlety. Pulled off in surprisingly good taste, there’s another version of this film in here that could amp up the absurdity and humor in a different direction. Ultimately, the direction Kato steers the film is inward.
Fruitless attempts to die lead the once anonymous members of the Life Club to learn more about themselves than intended. As the different motivations of club members arise, the absurd atmosphere transforms into something with more emotion in a more familiar structure. Telegraphed, on the nose, and after-school peculiarity are all valid criticisms for the second half. And yet, in spite of that, the effect of the delivery still worked. Even an epilogue that wore out its welcome does little to detract from the feelings stirred and lumps in throat that may or may not have occurred.