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If, as many have pointed out, Koreeda is Ozu's cinematic heir, then I Wish is Koreeda's take on Ozu's Good Morning. Both films focus on adorable young kids and Japanese family life, and I have no qualms about saying between the two films, Koreeda easily outdoes Ozu. Not only is Koreeda's depiction of children subtler and more intuitive (no fart jokes here), but he coaxes wonderfully naturalistic performances from his child actors. Is there a director alive who does better work with kids than Koreeda? The movie really takes flight once the kids hit the road on their quest, and I loved the Ozu-ish part where they meet an elderly couple that takes in all the children for a night. Just a wonderful movie with tons of heart. Puts the human in humanistic filmmaking.
This is the story of two young Japanese brothers who live apart
following the break-up of their parents' relationship. The older boy
dreams of his family reuniting and prays for a miraculous intervention
in the form of a volcanic eruption, hoping this might lead to his
evacuation from his grandparents' region and a return home. Then, when
he discovers that the passing of the speeding Bullet trains,
approaching from opposite directions, creates a 'cosmic' moment during
which wishes are granted, he sets out with a few friends to meet his
brother at the meeting point on the railway line. There they make their
wishes - with varying results.
The two brothers are forced to deal with the consequences of their parents' choices, ones they have had no part in making. Their belief, to varying degrees, in the power of 'faith' (believing that wishes can come true) then leads them to have to face the consequences of their own choices. Given their youthful immaturity, there is real poignancy in witnessing their confrontation with some harsh realities.
The movie features brilliant performances from the young actors and an excellent supporting cast of adults. There is also gorgeous and evocative cinematography, scenes of the Japanese countryside and its urban impositions, not least the Bullet line itself elevated on its concrete trackbed.
It takes some time, too long perhaps, for the story to gain momentum. But once the youngsters embark on their journey to meet the trains, the story moves at a brisker, more engaging pace. The climax (yes there is a climax, contrary to the view of another reviewer) brings moments of intense beauty and sharp sadness, regret for the loss of childish innocence of as well as optimism in the hope for a better future.
So this is a slow-burner, but persistence brings rewards. Recommended.
(Viewed at The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK 21.02.13)
Kouichi (Kouki Maeda) and Ryunosuke (Oushiro Maeda) who's parents are
separated and now lives apart in Fukuoka, and Kagoshima hears about a
rumor that if you see the meeting of the first bullet trains from
Fukuoka and Kagoshima, a miracle will happen. Wishing that the miracle
will be the reunion of their parents, they set out to see the meeting
of the two trains, while involving their friends, teachers, and adults
Child prodigy stand up comic team Maeda-Maeda performs the role of Kouichi, and Ryunosuke. Director Hirokazu Koreeda originally had a different plot for the story, where a girl living in Fukuoka, goes to see the two trains crossing each other on the track, meets a boy from Hakata and love story ensues. But upon seeing Maeda-Maeda at the audition, he changed the story to that which involves the two brothers. The project was a promotional campaign for the opening of the Kagoshima route of Japan Railways bullet train line. They brought the project to director Koreeda, and he accepted.
Very common story that involves nothing but the life of few children, but is made extraordinary by the direction of Koreeda, and the performance of Maeda brothers. Observation of people in common life, and attention to detail is extraordinary, and can only come from the eyes of a genius. I can see why Koreeda is regarded so highly as a director. I'd say only few directors can take a theme like this, and create a truly intriguing movie like this one.
In reality it is virtually impossible to pinpoint where the two trains will meet on the track, so the story is purely fictional.
It may be difficult to see all the inner workings of this movie at a first glance, but it is worth the time to sit in and really enjoy the performance.
In Kagoshima, the boy Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother Nozomi
(Nene Ohtsuka) in the house of his grandparents. Koichi misses his
younger brother Ryunosuke (Ohshirô Maeda) and his father Kenji (Jô
Odagiri), who live in Fokuoko, 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 (Ryôga Hayashi) and Makoto
(Seinosuke Nagayoshi), 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.
"Kiseki" is a simple and sensitive tale of loss of innocence of children that need to face reality instead of immature and naive dreams. The come of age of Koichi that accepts the divorce of his parents and of Megumi (Kyara Uchida) that decides to move to Tokyo to become an actress and Makoto that decides to bury his dog are clearly are depicted in the story. Ryunosuke is still a child and believes that his wish is the responsible for the chance his father and his friends will have in their career of musicians.
The direction of Hirokazu Koreeda and the performances are top-notch and the movie shows landscapes of the countryside of Japan that are unusual in Japanese features. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Que Eu Mais Desejo" ("What I Desire the Most")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Koichi (the fat one) and Ryunosuke (the 'on acid' one) are two brothers
separated along with their parents: Koichi now living with his mother
and grandparents in Kagoshima and Ryunosuke in Fukuoka with his father.
Once a happy family living in Osaka, they are now divided, with Koichi
in a sleepy town in southern Kyushu overlooked by a rumbling volcano;
and Ryunosuke with his musician father in modern and vibrant Fukuoka to
the island's north. Wanting his family back together again, like Janet
Jackson, Koichi comes up with an idea to make it happen.
Each with a group of friends, the brothers makes the trip to Kumamoto: the point they calculate where the new Sakura Shinkansen will meet in opposing directions. When this happens, miracles will follow.
Of course, this idea is childish that's why this is a film about children. Kore-eda Hirokazu's latest feature seems to combine two of his previous releases, 'Nobody Knows' and the Ozu-like 'Still Walking', looking at the break-up of family through the eyes of a child. Using real-life brothers (well, their family name is the same, anyway) for the leads, Hirokazu again captures the imagination with a film that furthers his place among the greats of Japanese cinema.
Like many of his other films, 'I Wish' is simple, but effective in his tackling of subjects in modern society, like an Ozu for a new generation, with the dreams and motivations of all cast members considered.
As a result of their parent's separation, 12-year-old Koichi (Koki
Maeda) lives in Kagoshima with his mother (Nene Ohtsuka) and
grandparents (Kirin Kiki and Isao Hashizume) while his younger brother
Ryunosuke (Oshiro Maeda) lives with his intermittently employed
musician father (Jo Adigiri) in Fukuoka. Both talk to each other daily
on their cell phone but have not seen each other in six months.
Acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's I Wish is a comedy/drama
about the consequences of a split family and of the children's longing
to reunite them. In contrast to Nobody Knows, an earlier Koreeda film
about children, I Wish will not break your heart.
The brothers (brothers in real life as well) are very different in personality but both seem happy and well adjusted in spite of the difficult circumstances of their life. Ryu is fun loving and his toothless smile will warm your heart. Koichi is more serious and thoughtful but very engaging. He becomes elated when he hears that a bullet train is coming that will connect his city to his brother's. Even more exciting are the rumors that are floating around that when two trains pass each other in opposite directions, your wishes will come true out of the energy the trains create. Koichi's wish is for the nearby volcano to explode so that his family will have to move, and he will be reunited with his brother.
The plan is to meet his brother half-way and do some serious wishing. The fun starts when they have to find creative ways to raise the money. There's also the pesky part about Koichi and his two friends leaving school in the middle of the day. For this he recruits his grandfather to provide an excuse to the school authorities and includes the school librarian who once had a similar experience of wanting to escape from school to attend a concert.
The group of friends of both brothers adds a lot to the film as well. Tasuku (Ryoga Hayashi) wants to marry his teacher, a bit of magic realism there. Makoto (Seinosuke Nagayoshi) wants his dog to come back to life. Megumi (Kyara Uchida), much to her mother's indifference, wants very much to go to Tokyo and become an actress. Kanna (Kanna Hashimoto) wants to be a better painter, and Rento (Rento Isobe) wants to be a faster runner. While the focus of the film are the wishes of the group of children and their trip to the trains' midpoint, the film also provides a rounded portrait of all of its characters without syrup or other sweeteners, though it certainly views children through a somewhat rose-colored lens.
I Wish is a charming and lighthearted film, though its over two hour's length can makes the goings-on a bit tedious. Although the children arrive at the point of realizing that accepting what is can produce happiness, the growth in reaching that point is what the film is about. Ultimately, however, though hoping, wishing, and yearning are all part of childhood, some adults come to realize that, a step beyond wishing and hoping and praying for something to happen, is our ability to create, to make things happen. Unfortunately, most people have not gotten past the hoping stage.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw this at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. It was
so good that I watched it again when it was publicly released.
What was your dream when you were small? To be a dancer? To be an actor? To marry your teacher? To run faster? To reunite with your family after your parents' separation?
For 12-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda), his dream was for the volcano in Kagoshima to explode so he could go back to Osaka with his mom and live with his dad and younger brother Ryunosuke (Oshirou Maeda).
Koichi accidentally heard that miracles happened when the first north and south bound bulletin trains passed each other in Kyushu. Elated, he called his younger brother in Osaka to plan for this secret rendezvous.
What is appealing of the film is that it is totally carried by the children cast. Even grandpa, mama, teachers and strangers on the road were on their side everyone was kind and everyone had their own dream. Grandpa was determined to try making his exclusive desert karukan. Mama missed his younger son but was too proud to get back with her husband. The teachers were all so kind to go along with the kids' kind lies.
What I admire is how autonomous the children were in this movie. Not only did they have a dream, but they also actually developed a plan to realize their dream: Koichi and his friends looked for changes under the vending machines. When they found out it was not enough, they sold their toys and comic books and even gave up their swimming tuition. Then they made a detailed itinerary complete with train schedule and maps. The important point was their parents gave them a lot of freedom to do what they want.
It did not come to my mind that the two brothers are real brothers behind the screen until I saw their old pictures in the later part of the movie. No wonder there were such strong resonance between them. All the characters were lovable in the film, even if they lie, even if they were too trusty - because they all have dreams and they believe in them.
The message is also very positive: when there is dream, there will be miracles and things will fall into places. Even if miracles did not happen, we would be glad that we tried.
A feel-good movie at the highest level. And it is exactly what Japan needs to rebuild itself from the ruins after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I expected this film to be like an emotional bullet train, given the
subject matter, but it is actually very subtle and very gentle, which
is entirely appropriate. There are not the histrionics that you might
expect from an American rendering of the same story. What you get is a
gentle representation of the warmth, love, and differences that exist
between two young brothers who have been recently separated by divorce,
and who have to learn to move forward with change. Koki Maeda and his
younger brother Oshiro were perfectly cast as the protagonist brothers
Koichi (serious yet still capable of dreaming and having fun)and
Ryonosuke (Slightly nuts, and inexhaustibly energetic, yet responsible
beyond his years).
The film handles a common situation with panache, and with a clear indication that this is a Japanese film depicting a uniquely Japanese approach to solving it. Wonderful! (I would love to know if the two boys are just playing themselves!)
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.
Lighthearted but profound Japanese family drama about two young
brothers forced to live apart after the separation of their parents.
The more sensitive Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother and
grandparents in Kagoshima under the shadow of the active Sakurajima
volcano, while the happy-go-lucky Ryu (Ohshirô Maeda) has remained in
Fukuoka with their slacker musician father. Koichi longs for them to be
reunited and when he hears of a magical rumour that when two super-fast
Bullet trains pass each other they create enough cosmic energy to grant
your wish, he and his friends set out to put things back the way they
The suburban tale of a troubled family told with a touch of fantasy and adventure draws obvious parallels with Spielberg, and it is more than worthy of the comparison. Director Hirokazu Koreeda elicits two incredibly natural performances from the boys (real life brothers) and indeed all of the young cast in the scenes where they're hanging out he has seemingly turned the camera on some local school friends, their relationships seem so genuine. Koichi and Ryu's story is interspersed with those of their friends and family, all of whom have their own struggles and aspirations. Be it their grandfather's desire to bake a successful sponge cake, or Koichi's friend's dream of marrying the beautiful school librarian, every character no matter how minor is portrayed as a real person with their own hopes and fears. As a result it is constantly engrossing, establishing an affinity with everyone on screen and also allowing some fantastically warm funny moments to emerge from the characters themselves. Despite its concentration on character over narrative, and its general unpredictability, the film still has a mainstream tone and is more than capable of cultivating a wide, varied audience.
A quiet natural film that avoids obvious melodrama and sentimentality, it retains a thoughtful depth about what it is to dream and hope for that which is just out of reach. As is often the case with the most affecting cinema its power lies in what the viewer brings to it from their own lives, and how much they are willing to invest in the film. With no obvious moral or message, it has the potential to be interpreted in many ways. A philosophical yet thoroughly accessible film that effortlessly gets under the skin.
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