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Hirokazu Koreeda's astute direction is as light as the traditional sponge cakes that the boys' grandfather makes.
on 2 June 2013
Hirokazu Koreeda's `I Wish' sees real-life brothers Koki and Ohshirô Maeda play Koichi and Ryu, two brothers who are geographically split in Japan by their parents who have split up. Twelve year old Koichi stays with his mother Nozomi (Nene Ohtsuka), who has returned home to Kagoshima to live with her parents. Ryu lives with his laid-back father Kenji (Jô Odagiri) in Osaka, whos's pursuing his ambitions as a musician.
No mention is made of why Nozomi and Kenji had split up, or why the brothers were split themselves to live with one parent. I can only surmise that the arrangement was temporary, so each parent had equal parental duties. Kagoshima is under the imposing shadow of a live volcano which is threatening to erupt, which fascinates Koichi. Although `I Wish' has a plethora of characters who are young and old, the focus is on young Koichi and Ryu. Koichi is the more introspective son, Ryu is easygoing and smiles a lot between those gap-teeth of his.
Koichi and Ryu regularly call each other to keep in touch, but rarely see each other. News of a new bullet trains imminent arrival spurs Koichi into action, he's heard that anyone who witnesses the exact moment where two bullet trains pass one another will have their wishes granted. Koichi and Ryu hatch a plan to meet up and attempt to witness this passing, hoping to restore their family back together again.
`I Wish' is an honestly portrayed and deeply moving film, brimming with energy and intelligence, with not an ounce of sentimentality. There's plenty of subtle comical moments used to charming effect, Ryu's chat with his father about child support in particular is hilarious. Koreeda's astute direction is as light as the traditional sponge cakes that the boys' grandfather makes, and theres a purpose and meaning in the tiniest details and movements. Koreeda manages to knit together so many characters and their individual struggles with warmth and precision, with two stunning performances from Koki and Ohshirô Maeda.
Above all, Koreeda realistically shows that life merely carries on as normal and everyone adapts. Neither Nozomi or Kenji are bad parents, they've merely changed to the point where they've realised their incompatibilities cannot be sustained together. Some things happen which cannot be explained, as Kenji said to Ryu, "There's room in this world for wasteful things. Imagine if everything had meaning. You'd choke."