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I Wish
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by Jay Seaver

"One does wish that more people could do this as well as Kore-eda."
5 stars

"I Wish" wanders away from its main story on occasion, following side stories that in a lesser movie would seem like an attempt to disguise just how wispy its main story actually is. And while that maybe the case here, it more often serves to show just how rich the world Hirokazu Kore-eda has created around two separated young brothers is.

Those brothers are Koichi (Koki Maeda) and Ryonosuke (Oshiro Maeda), who have been separated since their parents' divorce. Koichi is eleven or twelve and lives in the relatively quiet port city of Kagoshima with his mother Nozomi (Nene Otsuka) and grandparents (Kirin Kiki and Isao Hashizume); Ryo is a couple years younger and lives in Fukuoko with his father Kenji (Joe Odagiri), who still dreams of being a rock star. Though the boys talk over the phone daily, their cities are on opposite sides of the island. A bullet train will soon connect them, and a tall tale going around Koichi's school about how wishes made at the point where the two trains pass may come true soon has Koichi plotting a trip to the line's midpoint in the hopes of miraculously reuniting his family.

That, at least, is the framework, but Kore-eda does not make a quest out of it except for relatively brief stretches. Instead, he has the audience watch the boys and the people around them, allowing the connections and reflections to sink in. Kor-eda is very careful not to allow either to have anybody in their circles of friends who could serve as any sort of substitute for the other: Though Koichi's friends are not quite so solemn as him, that are, like he is, often defined by the desire for an impossible relationship; the Fukuoko characters are younger and more energetic, with most involved in something creative, whether it be gardening or acting. By building these sets up in parallel, the film not only makes it clear that the brothers are each missing something, but lets the variations on a theme develop all the characters at once. It also implies two halves to human nature - one searching for connection even though it will often end poorly, and the other looking to create something for oneself even if that can be somewhat callous.

Combine that with an ominpresent volcano constantly covering Kagoshima with ash (you can't hand a filmmaker a mountain-sized visual metaphor and not expect him to use it!), and it's easy to get the impression that I Wish is much more pessimistic than it actually is. While Kore-eda does spend a fair amount of the movie smashing children's innocence, he does so carefully, never breaking it into so many pieces that it can't be put back together as wisdom. And while parental figures in the kids' life are often uncomprehending sources or the neuroses their kids reflect, there's also grandparents, who seem to have recovered some of their optimism as they've gained wisdom.

Directing kids is something of a specialty of Kor-eda's; though the cast of this movie is very young (as in his Nobody Knows), there's nary a misstep to be found. Considering that several actors share names with their characters and others have scant credits even by child-actor standards, it's no surprise that Kore-eda evolved several of the characters from watching the kids playing them. Real-life brothers Koki and Oshiro Maeda are especially good as Koichi and Ryo; though not actually on-screen together very much until late in the film, they share just enough in appearance and mannerism to tie the two halves of the movie together even though the pair have very distinct personalities.

Plenty of good stuff comes out of this improvisation and tailoring things to the kids, and plenty was likely in the original script. A couple of side-stories are enjoyable enough that I wouldn't have minded seeing more, and Kore-eda quietly hits a number of genuinely beautiful notes as the movie glides toward its conclusion.

And so, despite not a lot happening during the movie, it still manages to culminate in a very satisfying way. That's not surprising; it's what Hirokazu Kore-eda does, and he does it especially well here.

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originally posted: 04/24/12 12:49:14
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Dallas International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Dallas International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/18/13 Annie G My fav of Hirokazu Kore-eda's films! Enjoyable for kids & adults. 5 stars
7/04/12 Elizabeth Wonderful! 5 stars
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  11-May-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 06-Nov-2012


  DVD: 06-Nov-2012

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