Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Jȏ Odagiri, Koki Maeda
You may like this if you like: The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, 2011), The Colour of Paradise (Majid Majidi, 1999), Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)
Since their parents split up, brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke (real life siblings Koki and Ohshirȏ Maeda) live separate lives miles apart from each other. Koichi makes it his wish that the family can live together again. While a bullet train line is being constructed, Koichi learns that that when the two bullet trains pass each other for the first time a miracle can occur if the person is there to see it and make a wish. The two brothers, along with their separate groups of friends arrange to get the money together and get out of school to meet and travel to where the two trains will pass each other.
Though always running the risk of over sentimental schmaltz, I found Koreeda’s melodrama to be a genuinely moving and poignant film. Though it has taken a couple of years to be released in the UK, I am extremely glad it eventually has been. This is a beautifully made and extremely optimistic film that captures perfectly the innocence/naivety of childhood that we all had. We all remember believing in something that now as adults we of course never would, but it gave us genuine hope, no matter how small it was.
At two hours long and made with an extremely gentle pace, this is a film that does require you to pay attention. It is not something you can just put on in the background, but if you are willing to invest two hours in these characters then you be will be rewarded by an emotionally rich and satisfying drama. The slow pace and naturalistic dialogue allows us to witness and understand not only the lives of the two brothers, but their friends too and their own individual dreams and wishes. It is very refreshing (and unfortunately quite rare) for a film to give such rich character development, but it is in taking its time that enables the climax to be both poignant and genuinely emotional. All of the children have a wish they want to make and through the detailed character development we understand their reasons for it, making the montage conclusion genuinely moving but still subtle in how Koreeda shows it.
Lesser directors may well have rushed things or simply descended into cliché, but Koreeda is an experienced hand and knows exactly how to make this kind of story feel genuinely moving and involving. The acting is also incredible, the real life siblings making the two brothers extremely likeable without ever overplaying things. Even the conclusion to the film is both satisfying and moving, but yet maintaining the subtle and genuine approach of the rest of the narrative. I will not spoil anything about what happens when we see the trains pass each other, but things remain perfectly in tone with the rest of the film.
This is of course a film that is incredibly optimistic in tone and message and so suspension of belief is required by more cynical adults like me. The fact the world is not actually a particularly nice place at times, and seven young children exploring on their own is not the safest thing to do in this day and age, especially as their parents show little concern. However, this is a minor criticism in what is otherwise a film that reminds us why to have genuine belief in something positive, especially as child, can give us renewed hope in life. It is a story any adult can relate to and be genuinely moved by.
I Wish is not only about miracles, but almost a miracle in film making in that it manages to effortlessly depict a simple story with genuine and poignant sentiment. I believe that anyone who watches this will easily relate to the characters and be moved by the experience. It is for me one of the most genuinely moving films of the year and one I would thoroughly recommend.