Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows, Still Walking)'s endearing new film, I Wish concerns two brothers Koichi and Ryu (Koki and Ohshiro Maeda, real life brothers), who live in different parts of Kyushu (southernmost among Japan's 4 main islands) as a result of their young parents splitting up. Koichi always wishes that some day his family will reunite. He keeps constant contact with his carefree younger brother. The news of the bullet train between the two towns they live in inspire them to come up with wish granting myth- when south and north bound trains pass by each other, the energy created by the trains would be so tremendous, it will grant any wishes uttered at that moment. They enlist their close school friends with different wishes and aspirations to take a trip to a station located halfway between them, risking punishment from their parents and teachers for skipping class.
I Wish is sweeter and lighter than Kore-eda's previous films. Death, the director's usual theme, only occurs to a pet dog here. After becoming a father and making Ozu-esque family drama, Still Walking, this life affirming dramedy feels like the most logical next step for him to take.
One thing that struck me most upon watching I Wish was that it could've easily been a Ghibli film, and I say this in the most affectionate, positive way. From its adorable young protagonists, a rural setting, gentleness of the adult characters, languid pace, to life lessons learned along the way, it plays out like a Miyazaki film without a cat bus. But as was the case with Nobody Knows, It's the amazing performances of its child actors that are the front and center of the film. Kore-eda provides enough room not only for the fantastic Maeda brothers, but also for other amateur actors who portrayed their friends to shine in their respective roles with natural, nuanced performances full of childish yearnings and surprising grace.
Also many familiar faces show up in supporting roles as adults, including Jo Odagiri as the deadbeat father and a struggling musician and Hiroshi Abe as a strict teacher.
My favorite part of the film is the static shots of inanimate objects near the end: mementos from their journey. The shots are held just long enough for us to appreciate those shared eternal moments. By the end I realize that its Japanese title, Kiseki (Miracle), refers more to everyday miracles- meeting new friends, adventure to new places, kindness of strangers, taste of grandpa's homemade traditional cake, among others. Affectionate and mature, I Wish is a lovely film about embracing everything that life throws at us.
has a limited release on May 11 in New York and LA and other cities in June. Check Magnolia website
for dates for a theater near you.Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on the world can be found at www.dustinchang.com
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