From the beginning of time, humans have always reached out of the darkness to wish for something (either about a warm place or a feast of food). Those people thought that to control the future, we need some kind of outside assistance. In today's world, science proposes various ways of dealing with the mysteries of life. But, still wishing is a powerful and positive force that is part of our spiritual evolution as human beings. In Hirokazu Koreeda's "I Wish" (Kiseki, 2011) group of kids make a wish as two bullet trains pass each other -- the legend is that a wish made at that precise moment will come true.
Koreeda is one of Japan's greatest storyteller and film-maker. His greatest gift is his capacity to work with children ("Nobody Knows", "Still Walking"). In his movies, we see fantastical landscapes, kids with a rare unforced naturalism and we can watch our world through the eyes of children. He gives a heavy emphasis on characters and so directs those (kids) so much as let them react to the universe he has created. The kids in Hollywood films often used as a means to express the director's nostalgia for childhood. So, we have generic placeholders in a kid's movie -- like puppy love, love of movies, precociousness. In Koreeda's movies, Children are shown as simple beings with their own inner world, desires and worries.
Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother Nozomi (Nene Ohtsuka) and grandparents (Isao Hashizume, Kirin Kiki) in the in the south of Kyushu island. Nozomi has divorced her husband Kenji (Joe Odagiri), a musician vying for a comeback. Kenji has taken away young Ryu (Ohshiro Maeda) to live with him in the city to resume his rock-musician career. The parents have been separated for six months and all the siblings wants is their family to be reunited. Koichi has lots of friends but still pines for his little brother who is enjoying new friends and urban life perhaps more than Koichi.
One day, Koichi learns from a student that a wish will come true if it was made at the perfect moment when two new bullet trains pass each other. Since, a new bullet train line is set to debut nearby, he suddenly hatches a plan. He makes a wish that the volcano, near their island, to explode so he and his mother can't live there anymore, and his father and mother will get together. Most of the movie centers on the siblings soulful trip to this miraculous train-passing zone, which has some requirements: a 24-hour absence from home and school; money (they get loose coins under Japanese vending machines and sell their toys); and the participation of friends as a backup.
Director Koreeda -- our generation's "Yasujiro Ozu" -- has made a movie about the effects of a broken marriage, but still there is plenty of room for cockeyed comedy, and for sharp observations about the exciting but ceaselessly bemusing condition of being a kid. He cuts to tear-jerking moments when Ryu asks his mother whether she loves him because he looks like his father ("You think I'm just like Dad, so I was afraid you wouldn't like me"). The direction style is gentle but isn't soft on adult characters, who are shown as a imperfect bunch with emotional vulnerabilities of their own. The cinematography by Yutaka Yamasaki (Koreeda's longtime collaborator) captures the kids' faces with soft, warm light. In the end, before the passing of two bullet trains, there is an astonishing montage of images, which lifts our spirits as we stand alongside with these kids at the side of the train tracks.
The movie's heartwarming sequences are all a result of one remarkable quality: the simplicity. The behaviors of kids are sometimes logical, especially when we witness Koichi's success in organizing a trip to the bullet-train convergence spot. At other times they live in their own dream worlds: A boy mimics his baseball idol's diet to play like him; Ryu’s solemn friend, Megumi (Uchida) wants to be an aspiring actress and also needs her mother (a failed actress) to take her seriously; A boy wants to marry his teacher, which lasts as long as it is shifted it to the school nurse; Another boy wishes for his dead dog to come back to life. The wishes of seven children (Ryu, Koichi and their trusty friends) and their aspirations as they gather near the train tracks show us the magical possibility of childhood.
|Director Koreeda with Koichi and Ryu|
The leads Koki and Ohshiro Maeda (as Koichi and Ryu) are real-life siblings whose performance is so faultless. All the other kids' performances are all so perfect which makes us think that the spontaneous conversations are recorded by hidden cameras. The adults -- most of them picked from prior Kore-eda casts -- carries out their character in an ideally restrained manner.
An old man in the movie asks in a decrying state, "Do kids today feel anything about anything?" "I Wish" reminds us that kids may come up short in understanding but they feel about everything around them. Watch this delightful and emotional searing movie and learn along with these kids that a good friendship and family are the biggest miracles of all.
I Wish (Kiseki) -- IMDb