Posted in: Review

I Wish

No writer/director is better at mining big human truths from the seemingly trivial details of daily life than Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose jewel-box like movies — Nobody Knows and Still Walking are two stellar examples — offer intimate slices of life in contemporary Japan that teach us about life anytime and anywhere. In I Wish, Kore-eda takes us to the small city of Kagomisha, where 12-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) is troubled by a nearby volcano that constantly spews light ash and confused by the fact that no one seems to really care. His bigger problem, though, is his parents’ fractured marriage. While he lives with his mother, his younger brother and best friend Ryunosuke (his real-life brother Koki Maeda) lives in a distant city with their scruffy father (Japanese acting god Jo Odagiri). When the boys hear that if they stand in a special spot where two bullet trains pass each other their wishes will come true, they immediately hatch a scheme to make their way there, meet up, and heal their parents’ rift with magic. What follows is a delightful two-pronged adventure as Koichi and Ryunosuke converge on the spot with several friends in tow, the rag-tag gangs of kids looking not unlike a bunch of Japanese Little Rascals with the adorable and endlessly optimistic Ryunosuke leading the charge, a huge smile plastered on his face. Along the way, the kids see a few things, learn a few things, and even bed down at the home of an elderly couple who are thrilled to have company and would never consider calling the police or the parents. If the film meanders a bit and seems to take thoughtful pauses — as most of Kore-eda’s films do — it’s because it should. Kore-eda is clearly inspired by the Japanese master Yasujirō Ozu, whose dozens of small-scale dramas over the decades were equally langorous, detailed, and deceptively powerful. There’s nothing about I Wish that should have you in tears, and yet, at the end, when Oshiro stands on his home’s balcony and sticks out his finger to catch a flake of ash, the cumulative effect of Kore-eda’s storytelling power hits, and it’s hard not to choke up. He’s the sneakiest of directors, a ninja of emotion, and he never fails to amaze. Aka Kiseki.

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