Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Starring: Kohki Maeda, Ohshiro Maeda, Nene Otsuka, Joe Odagiri, Ryoga Hayashi
Children never fully have control of their lives nor should they, as they get overseen by adults who have somewhat lived life to some extent and can help expend wisdom to them. That’s why it becomes difficult for children to handle difficult adult circumstances, much like when their parents decide to divorce. I Wish takes this sensitive topic for children and breaks it down with plenty of simplicity by showing the precious selfishness of these young ones along with what reality awaits them.
Brothers, Koichi (Kohki Maeda) and Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) share the same parents but live apart because of a recent divorce. Now a considerable distance apart, they hear the myth of witnessing two high-speed trains pass each other on the tracks granting a wish to which they see as the opportunity to bring together their parents and their family as a whole.
Unsurprisingly, a film with this premise would come from the mind of the great Hirokazu Kore-eda who has proven time and time again that he understands both the simplicity and intricacies of children. Usually, attempts putting young ones front and center crafted by an adult either puts them in the place of speaking like a philosopher or far below the reality of how they interact. Kore-eda always seemingly finds the ground in-between and with this feature strikes gold. Focusing on these two real-life brothers portraying siblings on-screen allows for a thorough exploration of how children process divorce not in a way meant to entertain, but rather evoke a sense of honesty and justification for their feelings. This caring and textured approach makes all the difference in the feature and demonstrates why it’s an incredible success.
The aspect I Wish truly nails comes from the level of selfishness children should have when navigating their lives at such a young age. What could be considered bratty behavior actually stems from a place for them trying to assert some level of control in their lives absent because they cannot fully make sound decisions. Sure, it would be great for Koichi and Ryunosuke to live together once again, but it does not line up with the reality of their parents no longer seeing a future together as a couple. As a kid, it’s okay to want to be selfish and want to have your parents come together, because it may provide the best life for you. Sure, it may not be the best for the parents, but with the limited power children actually have in their lives, they can be forgiven for wanting their destiny somewhat in their hands. It’s what makes the idea of them making this wish so incredibly endearing because perhaps it would take a miracle to accomplish this myth, but in the end, it will all be worth it in their eyes. Seeing as we see this through their perspective, it becomes our only worry as well.
Delicateness dictates what makes this film stand apart from all others taking on this story as it handles the emotions and wants of these children with a profound amount of care. Yes, we receive some of the perspectives of the parents and why the relationship did not work, but it more so becomes more important as to how it impacts the brothers and their hope to come together once again. Accompanying with the score and all other technical elements, the feature has such a defining soft touch to the way it tells its story, which adds to its quality because a more blunt approach could have been used but would not make the fairytale this feature seeks to be. The illusion of the perfect family already gets shattered for them with reality having them live apart, however, the possibility of having this train wish grant them the thing they want the most in their life has this magical aura to it. Heck, the passion in which they speak on it all nearly got me thinking it may actually work. Something only children believe but the narrative works so well as it envelops us into it as well to get on this idea with them. Simply wondrous.
Child acting typically feels like a necessary evil as some stories need them, but with these two young actors helming the project and being at the very forefront the brothers Kohki and Ohshiro Maeda truly rise to the occasion to capture the nearly-magical experience this feature seeks to evoke. They both capture the innocence of childhood through their work here but they also show the imaginative nature existent in this era of everyone’s lives. A time where you could feasibly think a wish could solve all of the world’s problems. In an era where everything could simply be wished away and at such a young age, these two brothers do exactly what they need to do in communicating it all to the audience.
Truly a lovely experience, which comes to no surprise when watching a Hirokazu Kore-eda feature film, I Wish uses its magic to bewitch the audience. It pulls at the heartstrings and brings us along for a ride back to childhood. A time where things felt much simpler and the messiness of adulthood has not yet brought out our more cynical nature. This narrative allows the audience to dream along with this pair of brothers where an unlikely scenario could occur just by wishing it to arrive.