From Hirokazu Koreeda, the director of Nobody Knows, comes I Wish.
I Wish is lighter in treatment, even funny. If Nobody Knows dealt with abandonment and how children are forced to survive on their own, I Wish deals with how two brothers cope with the divorce of their parents. The older one goes to live with his mother in Kagoshima while the younger one lives with his father in Fukuoka.
The story does not only revolve on the brothers (played by real-life brothers Koki and Oshiro Maeda — though I swear I wouldn’t have thought they were siblings for real) but on their friends as they adjust to life away from each other and half of their parents.
The parents are played by Nene Otsuka (HERO and Arashi’s Saigo no Yakusoku) and THE Joe Odagiri but don’t expect a lot of screen time from them, or even from Abe Hiroshi and Masami Nagasawa (who looks tall here I wonder), who both play teachers in Koichi (the older brother)’s school. But it was always a joy whenever Odagiri and Hiroshi-san were onscreen, especially the latter.
I was amused with the pop culture references. At the beginning of the film, Hiroshi reviews the answers of his class on what profession they want to pursue when they grow up.
“EXILE,” he starts off, “is not a profession.” (Coincidentally, I’m listening to EXILE’s I Wish For You as I write this.) “Ichiro is not a profession (referring to the famous baseball player).”
In another scene involving Koichi’s friends in class, someone asked his friend who is aspiring to be an actress in Tokyo how was it to work with Becky. Then she goes on to ask if she has seen “Ohno”. I wondered which Ohno was this since obviously, there are a lot of Ohnos in Japan’s entertainment business, and my doubts were erased when another girl said: “I like Nino more.” Why couldn’t you just have woven Arashi into the screenplay, Koreeda-san?
The main plot of the film is the brothers’ wish to have them live as a family again. Koichi, the older one, is more passionate about this that he even wishes the volcano in Kagoshima erupts thinking this will push their parents back into each other’s arms. Ryo, the younger one, is happy-go-lucky (and plain adorable), whom his mother likens to her ex-husband, who is a musician.
Ryo’s conversations with his father and brother are just entertaining, especially when he asks the meaning of certain words.
Ryo: “Dad, what does re-evaluation mean?”
Dad: “It means it’s no good.”
Ryo: “That’s what also mom said about you.”
(Showing their father’s album to his older brother)
Ryo: “What does indie mean?”
Koichi: “Hmmm… it means you have to try harder.”
(After Koichi told him that he chose the world over family in making a wish)
Ryo: “Dad, what does world mean?”
Dad: “Um…. ah! It’s that pachinko parlor beside the station.”
Ryo: “Dad, that’s The New World!”
Going back to the wish, they heard that when two trains meet for the first time, energy is released and the wishes of those who witness this at the exact moment will be granted. The Kyushu bullet train that will connect Kagoshima and Fukuoka is about to be completed so Koichi starts to formulate a plan with his friends, who also had their own agenda. Ryo soon hears about this and wants to go.
When the day comes, they both bring their friends to the town where they calculate the two trains will meet. It’s easy to be reminded of the escapades one did in their childhood with their friends. (Mine was biking under the heat of the summer sun to my best friend’s house outside of our subdivision, along a highway and a deserted road, and making sure I was back at home freshly showered from the afternoon grime by the time my parents came home.)
The journey of the kids from the time they gather money for the trip up to that moment they stood on a hill to witness the meeting of the two trains was filled with childlike innocence and excitement it makes you want to be a kid again and be that naive. When they made that wish as the trains passed each other, screaming into the wind what was inside their hearts, I wished in my adult heart that their wishes will come true. But aside from the fact that this is a Koreeda film, we know why there is such a thing called wishful thinking.
What drives home the point that some wishes remain just that is when one of Koichi’s friends (the one with the backpack on his front) brings his dead dog Marble to the trip because he wanted to wish that he will be resurrected. That doesn’t happen of course and the brothers with their friends go back to their lives.
Download links for I Wish here.
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