Brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke hatch a fantastic plan to engineer a miracle and reunite their divorced parents in this drama from Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu (Still Walking). Now playing in Auckland. Releases nationwide August 16th.
For a film inspired by Japan’s bullet trains, I Wish is ponderously slow. Clocking in at over two hours, award-winning film-maker Hirokazu Koreeda, director of Nobody Knows, masterfully evokes everyday life in modern Japan through the eyes of babes, putting characters before plot.
It’s a shame this isn’t more tightly focused as it’s a sweet story of two brothers conspiring to bring their broken family back together, a moving tale of innocence lost. But glaring narratives are not Koreeda’s style. I Wish is epic in duration, yet humble. So your affection for the film will rely on your patience for gentle, observational and occasionally meandering storytelling.
Through a series of vignettes, we meet 12 year-old Koichi, who lives with his unemployed mother and grandfather. Further north in Hakata is Koichi’s effervescent younger brother Ryunosuke, who lives with his father, a rock musician. Koreeda allows the kids – actual brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda – to simply be kids, resulting in many amusing and wise conversations about life (when discussing what “indie” means in relation to their muso dad, they decide it’s “unsuccessful”).
Despite an abundance of pithy observations between the gifted comedic child actors, this train sometimes falters on the tracks, as the stakes in I Wish are neither high nor harsh. With its sprawling cast of peripheral characters, the film’s greatest strength is its evocative conjuring of fractured urban life against a bleak cityscape. You’d have to be hard of heart not to warm to the central ideas about childhood dreams and happy families – and the grown-up conclusions the children eventually come to. You could also be forgiven for feeling occasionally frustrated as things become mired in the minutiae.