I was astonished to discover I Wish was made five years ago. How have I never come across it or seen it before? It’s a thing of beauty.
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, the film is a Japanese tale of two young brothers who are forced to live apart in separate towns when their parents’ relationship crumbles, the eldest going to live with his mother and grandparents and the youngest with his father. When one of the boys is told of the wish-granting power created at the exact moment two high speed bullet trains pass one another, he resolves to get his family back together again.
The first thing to be said about I Wish is that it boasts that rarest of things, child actors that really can act and make you forget you’re watching a film or performance. Most child actors, however good they are on most levels, find it impossible to fully shake off their stage school tendencies (think the early Harry Potter films in particular). The young actors playing the two lead roles in I Wish (real life brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda) are completely believable and natural.
I haven’t felt this way about a film with children in the lead roles since Stand by Me. That film works so well because the young cast, River Phoenix especially, all give the performances of their lives.
While a totally different story set in a different era and culture, I Wish also evokes a similar atmosphere to Stand by Me. There’s a warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia for being 12 years old again and running around with your friends, tempered with the realisation – as an outsider looking in - that it won’t be too long before more grown-up responsibilities take over. The last days of innocence.
This is not to say that I Wish is overly sentimental or sickly. Far from it, the entire film is judged to perfection. Indeed, the entire cast, young and old, is equally fantastic. There’s not a dud performance in sight. Other storylines and subplots involving family and friends unfold throughout the film but complement rather than distract from the main storyline – which never feels predictable and keeps you guessing to the end.
The film is a PG but I’m not sure why. Anyone from the age of 9 or 10 will love it. Time to explore Kore-Eda’s back catalogue.