Film: I Wish (2011)
Cast includes: Koki Maeda, Oshiro Maeda, Ryoga Hayashe
Writer/Director: Hirokazu Koreeda (Nobody Knows)
Genre: Light Drama | Comedy, Japanese with subtitles (128 minutes)
Living in sight of the volcano, it’s not easy to keep up with the ash that settles everywhere. Koi’s not used to it, so he cleans his room in the morning, even if it makes him late for school. When the nice teacher hurries by, Koi and his friends wish they were in her class. “Insects aren’t professions,” says their teacher while handing back their essays. For some reason, Koi has trouble doing the assignment he’s supposed to do. And the next one isn’t going to be any easier. They’re supposed to write about their father’s profession. “What if we don’t have a father?” Koi’s parents are separated and Koi is now living with his mother and grandparents in Kagoshima. When the class lets out, Koi’s teacher tells him that he didn’t have a father either. Koi spends a lot of time talking on the phone with his younger brother, Ryu, who lives with their dad in Fukuoka.
Meanwhile everyone in Kagoshima is talking about the new bullet train. The trains will reach a speed of 160 mph. Koi learns that when the north-bound and south-bound trains pass each other, the energy’s so great that if you’re there, your wish will be granted… just like a shooting star. Koi knows what he’d wish for. He’d wish for his parents to get back together so the four of them can live together again. Koi’s friends all have wishes, too. When they figure out that the two trains should pass each other in Kumamoto Prefecture, they start making plans to meet Ryu in Kumamoto Prefecture so they can all make wishes… and as it turns out, there are a few grown-ups who are glad to pitch in.
In the meantime, we get a wonderful view of the world from the point of view of a 12-year-old. Koi’s grandfather (ojii-san) has dreams of being an entrepreneur selling Karukan cakes at the new train station. When Koi finds ojii-san’s recipe to be tasteless, ojii-san laments that it’s probably an adult taste. Koi agrees… not wanting to hurt ojii-san’s feelings… but laments when his friends also find them tasteless. This is a charming film that showcases the Maeda brothers in the roles of Koi and Ryu, but all the kids are adorable. Much of the enjoyment is in the details of daily life, which seems very quaint and sweet when compared to childhood in America. There are many details of small town Japanese life that Americans might not grasp, but the central story isn’t hard to follow. And it’s easy to enjoy the charm of the kids.
3 popped kernels
A 12-year-old boy hopes he can reunite his parents by making a wish
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment