Some movies thrust you into the plot with no proper setup or context. Sometimes this jarring choice works, other times it makes the film too confusing for viewers to get invested. The Magic Life of V teeters between pulling off an intriguing mystery and being too confusing for its own good, but ultimately I think the story could have unfolded a little faster and a little more clearly. With that said, once the film begins to make sense, it happens to be a pleasant movie with a recognizable message we’ve seen a million times before, but I can definitely say I’ve never seen it touched upon like this.
The film revolves around Veera Lapinkoski, or V as she has named her character. Veera is a young Finnish adult who uses LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) to cope with traumatic events in her childhood. The most simplified definition of LARPing I can give is that it’s an activity that involves a group of people who do battle using fake weapons and spells in order to act out various scenarios. Think a live-action Dungeons & Dragons type game.
“…a girl coming to terms with her abusive past and an alcoholic father who makes it hard for her to love.”
Coming into this movie completely blind, free of any synopsis, I had no idea what was happening when our main character shows up to what looks like the indie film budget version of Hogwarts. Robed wizards and warriors perform a ritual involving conjuring demons. Is this reality? Fantasy? Is it a twisted mixture of both? It took me a while to figure it all out. It took me a lot longer to realize this was a documentary. It doesn’t look or feel anything like one. I had to read a press post-viewing to find out it features real people and not actors. This absolutely blew my mind.
The heart of the story can be boiled down to being just about a girl coming to terms with her abusive past and an alcoholic father who makes it hard for her to love. Throw in a sweet relationship involving Veera and her brain-damaged brother, Ville Oksanen, and there’s something quaint and adorable that makes this documentary stand above just being a preachy story denouncing alcohol abuse.
The Magic Life of V is shot incredibly. There’s an eerie and otherworldly nature to it coupled with amazing scenic beauty. There’s a disturbing anti-drinking commercial that randomly shows up that’s straight up nightmare fuel. Apparently, it’s a legitimate commercial that has played on Finnish television. You can find it on YouTube fairly easily by searching for “Fragile Childhood-Monsters”. This is pretty much one of the scariest things I’ve seen in a long time.
“Is this reality? Fantasy? Is it a twisted mixture of both? It took me a while to figure it all out..”
The documentary’s standout scenes mostly involve Veera and Ville. Their obvious love for each other is wonderfully touching. There’s a tense showdown between Veera and her Father that is sure to resonant with people who have known people with alcoholism. The LARPing scenes are interesting, particularly one that takes place at night involving surviving an attack on monstrous mutants. I greatly enjoyed this film, but I would have enjoyed a quicker approach to introducing the audience to what the story is ultimately about.
Using Live Action Roleplaying as a form of coping therapy is an intriguing subject, but the slow reveal didn’t suck me in as much as it could have. I’d also wager that those unfamiliar with LARPing would be way more lost than I was. The film does not explain it very well, and the uninitiated might hold onto that sense of confusion for the entire film. Aside from these gripes, I think the film is definitely worth checking out.
The Magic Life of V (2019) Directed by Tonislav Hristov. Written by Kaarle Aho, Tonislav Hristov, and Lubomir Tsvetkov. Starring Veera Lapinkoski, Ville Oksanen, Slava Doycheva, Mike Pohjola.
7.5 out of 10