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In Kagoshima, the boy Koichi lives with his mother Nozomi in the house of his grandparents. Koichi misses his younger brother Ryunosuke and his father Kenji, who live in Fukuoka, and he dreams on his family coming together again. One day, Koichi overhears that the energy released by two bullet trains passing by each other would grant wishes and he invites his two best friends, Tasuku and Makoto, to travel to the point of intersection of the two trains. Koichi also tells his plan to Ryunosuke that invites his three best friends to join him. Soon the seven children arrive to the meeting point in the journey of discoveries. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pre-teen brothers Ryunosuke and Koichi (played by real-life brothers Ohshirô and Koki Maeda) are forced to live apart when their separated parents end up residing in opposite ends of Kyushu. Ryunosuke broods on this, while Koichi seems more at ease with the arrangements. Together, the brothers hatch a plan to meet at the point where the new shinkansen trains pass each other, after hearing an urban legend that the vortex created by the speed of the trains has the power to grant wishes. Meanwhile, granddad tries out a new sponge cake recipe, a friend of Koichi's has acting ambitions, and Dad is writing a new song.
The usual Kore-eda themes of fractured families and kids finding magic in a flawed universe are present, but by the director's own standards this is a much lighter, almost sugar-coated engagement with those themes. There is the signature naturalistic, engrossing performances from the child actors, with Ohshirô as Ryunosuke especially impressive in his conflicted, caring attempts to be re-united with his brother. Koki is more of a one-note outing, required to be relentlessly upbeat, which he does superbly. The scene where he moves his mother to tears on the phone plays on this astutely. Forcing two young brothers to live apart for their own selfish ends could be represented in darker tones, even as abuse, but Kore-eda keeps it all light and humorous, through the simple trope of having the children be sensible and down-to-earth, and the adults, especially the bickering parents, petty and immature. The sub-plots, involving sponge cake and acting ambitions, are so removed from the main story strand that they give the film an episodic, slightly meandering feel when they pop up. Ultimately they are distracting, making the story busier than it needs to be. They also stretch the running time to over two hours. While some will delight in spending time with such engaging children, the film felt flabby to me after the 90-minute mark. The ending, while admirably avoiding sentimentality, takes too long to come around.
Such is Kore-eda's stature that a host of A-listers pack the minor roles giving them more gravitas than normal. Jô Odagiri as the musician father, Kirin Kiki as the grandmother, and Hiroshi Abe as a disciplinarian teacher ply their day-shifts admirably.
There is a lot to enjoy in I Wish, but lacking the damning social critique of Nobody Knows, and the acerbic scalpel on family life of Still Walking, this is Kore-eda choosing to crowd please rather than stretch himself.
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