Friday, June 1, 2012

 

I wish (奇跡)

I Wish Renowned Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda (是枝 裕和) is one of the best directors of our time. His fine works include well-known masterpieces such as "Still Walking" (歩いても 歩いても | 2008), "Nobody Knows" (誰も知らない | 2004), and "After Life" (ワンダフルライフ | 1998). His newest addition to his extraordinary filmography is a delightful family drama "I Wish," (奇跡 | Japan 2011 | in Japanese | 128 min.). Blended with gentle humor, it beautifully depicts how children perceive this complicated world while growing up.

Next to an active volcano, Sakurajima (桜島), people calmly and peacefully live in Kagoshima (鹿児島市). This is also where twelve-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his grandparents (Kirin Kiki and Isao Hashizume) and his divorced mother Nozomi (Nene Ohtsuka).

Koichi has a lot questions in his young curious mind. For example, "why do people live next to an active volcano?" and "why is school built on top of the hill?" However, what he cares the most is how to reunite his family back together—after his parents' divorce, his younger energetic brother Ryunosuke (Ohshirô Maeda) lives with his indie-musician father Kenji (Jô Odagiri), far away in Fukuoka (福岡市). Koichi and Ryunosuke keep connected by frequent phone calls.

A new bullet-train line, Kyushu Shinkansen (九州新幹線), is about to ease the agony of separation by linking Kagoshima and Fukuoka together. On the eve of its debut operation, Koichi and his friends learn that a miracle can become true if they make a wish on the spot when the northbound train crosses the southbound train for the first time.

Koichi and Ryunosuke gather their friends and make a grand plan to meet at the train crossing point by cutting schools. Although miracles may not become reality as they have hoped, the journey helps them to understand the meaning of living in this world and to experience the miracle of coming-of-age.

Koki Maeda and Ohshiro Maeda in I Wish

Director Hirokazu Koreeda is a master of capturing children's mind through his observant lenses. Like in "Nobody Knows," he once again puts children in the center of the story, and effortlessly unfolds a moving story with terrific performance by young actors.

In real life, talented lead actors Koki Maeda and Ohshirô Maeda are biological brothers performing in a comedian group called MaedaMaeda (まえだまえだ). In this film, they superbly played Hirokazu Koreeda's mesmerizing characters that are written specifically for them. Their personalities are a sharp contrast on the big screen. One is thoughtful and mature; the other is charismatic and clever.

A unique trait of director Hirokazu Koreeda's films is his ability of telling touching stories through seemingly ordinary family lives. One of the most moving scenes in the film is when an elderly couple expresses their joy quietly when they take the kids in for a night, because these children bring out the fond memories about the couple's daughter who moves away.

The film's Japanese title (奇跡) literally means miracle. Without a doubt, the film is an enchanting little miracle itself.

"I Wish," a Magnolia Pictures release, opens on Friday, June 1, 2012 at Bay Area theaters. It was also shown earlier at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival.


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