by Ken B.
Koichi (KOKI MAEDA) hears from a classmate that when two bullet trains pass each other on parallel rails, the force created is so great that you can scream out a wish and it will come true. He then is further convinced that the plan he has been conceiving must go through. You see, for around six months now his parents have been divorced and his musician father (JÔ ODAGIRI) along with Koichi’s younger brother Ryu (OHSHIRÔ MAEDA) have moved to a different city, which is a considerable distance away. Koichi lives with his mother and grandparents. The two brothers scheme a plan to reunite, and they each bring a few of their friends with them. This is the center of I Wish (Kiseki), a well made movie from Hirokazu Kora-eda.
While it’s hard to deny the existence of occasional overt manipulative emotion in the script, it does not harm the enjoyability or overall message of the film. Kora-eda has been able to coax the child actors into wonderful, relatable, and believable performance. While watching this, any predispositions that you might have due to previous negative experiences with younger actors are fairly and efficiently dissolved (at least, for this movie).
Music is not of key importance here, there are 10, 15 minute long segments with just dialogue or exterior city noises. This is unquestionably a positive. Since there are times throughout the film where there is a tightrope walk between good emotion and overt emotion, some kind of The Cider House Rules-esque piano solo in the background would have made a big, obvious negative.
At 128 minutes, the pacing may be the only significant problem with I Wish. It does run on longer than it probably should have; there are some scenes either unnecessary or dragged out. It isn’t a total deal breaker, but it is indeed noticeable.
I Wish contains a lot of interesting scenes, some boring scenes, and one powerful scene that will probably stick with me for a while. It is at the end, and as Koichi and his friends stand at one end of a train station with Ryu and his companions at the other end, they wave goodbye as a train speeds past, obscuring one from the other. The complexity in the undertones of the scene, whether real or just me imagining them, were worthy of some extra thought on it afterwards. The moments like these in the film, from the ash-raining volcano in Koichi’s home town to a particular exchange on horsemeat sashimi can be taken at face value as just a simple throwaway, or something more. Despite its flaws, I Wish is a movie worthy of respect and evaluation.