As the brothers bond with supportive friends, they negotiate school and discuss their desires and aspirations, long term and short term. One friend wants to be a professional baseball player, one an actress, another isn’t sure. But the group of four that includes Ryu and the two with Koichi agree that their most cherished wish will come true if they shout their wishes from an advantageous lookout point when two bullet trains, traveling in opposite directions, pass each other at full speed on side-by-side tracks. That will create a uniquely miraculous moment because of the high-energy field generated.
The brothers and friends humorously strategize ways to get money for tickets, including selling several treasures, and where they must travel to observe the landmark event. While the situations and feelings expressed feel completely authentic, the story rambles through its first hour with snapshots of the children’s lives loosely connected, usually through the two brothers talking on cell phones, wanting their parents to reconcile. In its second hour, as I Wish gains focus and a more linear plot, it gains its own momentum. But it demands its viewer feel comfortable merely hanging out with the appealing children.
Beautifully shot with an artistic use of color in pleasing compositions, the film feels totally candid with an unobtrusive camera that never reframes or wobbles. Part of the credit goes to the two real life brothers who play Koichi and Ryu, both non-actors, and to the fine adult actors. Japanese director/writer Hirokazu Kore-eda has demonstrated his cinematic mastery in Maborosi and After Life. He’s shown his knack for working with children in Nobody Knows and his droll humor in Air Doll. I Wish illustrates these qualities but would have benefitted from a more compelling narrative drive along with its sweetness.
An interesting footnote: the catalyst for I Wish came from Japanese Railways hoping to promote their Shinkansen Bullet Train. In Japanese with English subtitles, at a Landmark Theatre.