[Review] – I Wish

29 May

Title: I Wish
Year: 2012
Director: Hirokazo Kore-eda
Writer: Hirokazo Kore-eda
Starring: Koki Maeda, Ohshirô Maeda, Ryôga Hayashi
MPAA Rating: PG, mild thematic elements, language and smoking
Runtime: 128 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Metacritic: 79

For the 550th film I’ve reviewed I chose Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s I Wish, mostly because Still Walking is an absolutely brilliant film and I couldn’t wait to see his latest, and I figured I should treat myself to a movie that was most likely going to be good for a “milestone” review. And I’m really glad I did, because even if I Wish is no perfect film or anything like that, it’s definitely one of those little films that knows how to make a big impact, and I’m damn happy that I got to see it.

The film centers on two brothers separated by the divorce of their parents. Koichi living with his mother and grandparents, and Ryunosuke living with his father at opposite ends of Kyushu. The older Koichi is the one who’s really quite set in getting his family back together again, wishing that the volcano near to his home soon erupts so that they can move closer, while the younger Ryunosuke is really kind of contempt living with his laid-back dad. If you’ve seen Nobody Knows, then you know what Mr. Kore-eda can do with kids in his films, but let me assure you that I Wish is a far lighter film, one that can definitely be seen by kids, but that still retains all the heart and depth that makes a Hirokazu Kore-eda film.

The wish the title refers to as being made, is one made by Koichi, who of course wishes for his family to be reunited. Something that he thinks will be achieved by going to the exact spot where two bullet trains connecting the two towns cross each other, believing that the force created by the two passing each other will be enough to make any wish come true. And he tells Ryunosuke to meet him there. And they both get groups of friends together, all of them with their own little wishes at hand to hopefully better their lives.

A lot of attention is paid not necessarily to the path these kids and their friends take to get there, though it’s awesome to see how they raise the money for the tickets and how they plan to get there, but instead there’s quite a bit of attention paid to what these people do in their daily lives, their little routines that Mr. Kore-eda starts showing us in a nice enough pace that the two-hour-plus running time doesn’t really feel like it’s dragging along. And he’s obviously showing us all of that for a reason, because by the time I Wish reaches its climatic scene and we see all the kids yelling out their wishes at the same time we get to see all of these little things and how they affected what they wished for, and it gains a hell of a lot of meaning.

Cynics may laugh off at the fact that it’s kind of a silly thing to believe in, this thing that wishes will come true by the time the trains pass each other by, but then you remember that these are kids, and Japanese kids at that, infants who, while raised with the latest in technology, have a heritage that relies on quite of a lot of storytelling and myths and imagination. But, in any case, cynics are dumb, and in I Wish that whole thing works just beautifully, not to mention that Mr. Kore-eda never once over-sweetens this whole thing, the film never once films corny at all, mostly because the message is not the one you’d get in an American version of this film. In I Wish it’s all about just accepting and making the most out of the life you live, rather than keep on wishing for a better one.

That’s what I found great, that Mr. Kore-eda never once gave this film a mopey kind of tone. It’s far more light-hearted than his previous films, and there’s no big conflict or center of drama, but he uses this sort of leisurely observation of these two kids’ worlds to slowly get us to get invested in it, and even though this is lighter fare for him, there’s still quite a lot of substance being shown. And it’s great how he uses his two child performers, who are also siblings in real life, to show that sense of blissful naïvety, because they really can’t grasp all of the complex things that their parents divorce really means, they just know that things have changed.

I love it how Mr. Kore-eda just gets us into the world of these kids, we feel their adventurous sort of spirit, their curiosity, how out of touch they are about the more adult things in the world, and we kind of start believing in that wish with the trains as well, in a way. And he kind of makes some frames feel both happy and sad at the very same time, and all the better for that simultaneous experience. Because learning to accept that the world most of the time won’t be the way we want it to be is a lesson like that, the kind that may make you sad, but that by accepting it makes you happy. Mr. Kore-eda gets that point across in a film that, while touching, never gets overly sentimental, and that’s something easier said than done.

I’ve reviewed 550 films now, and I’ve really liked getting more and more readers to check out my stuff and everything, because y’all are awesome, but at the end of the day it’s, obviously, all about the movies. And films like I Wish, while this one particularly won’t rank as my favorite of the year, and will be lesser ranked than some quality commercial Hollywood ones, will always be the ones that make me smile when I think of how some truly awesome films are out there. This is the kind of film that America just won’t make any more, and one that captures brilliant the moment when you stop being a kid and believing in kid things, and you start becoming an adult, and learn how to cope with disappointment. For what it’s worth, a disappointment I Wish is definitely not.

Grade: A-


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