Featuring: Koki Maeda, Ohshirô Maeda, Ryôga Hayashi, Yui Natsukawa, Joe Odagiri, Hiroshi Abe
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Screenplay: Hirokazu Kore-eda
2012-13 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville 1-7 April, 7.30pm
Reviewer: rolanstein (one-word verdict: charming)
12-year-old Koichi (Koki Maeda) lives with his mother (Yui Natsukawa) and grandparents in the volcanic-ash-ridden town of Kagoshima, while younger brother Ryu (Ohshirô Maeda) resides with their muso father (Joe Odagiri) in the north. A new bullet train line is soon to open, linking the boys’ towns. Taking inspiration from a rumour that wishes will be granted if made at the moment the new trains pass each other at full speed the first time, Koichi determines that this is the opportunity for him and Ryu to be reunited. The boys and their respective friends, each with wishes of their own, set about raising money to travel to the mid-way point of the new line, and arranging an escape from school coinciding with the bullet trains’ debut journey.
Director Kore-eda demonstrated a special affinity with his child actors in his heart-rending 2005 film, Dare mo shiranai (Nobody Knows). Again, he’s drawn out the very best in the kids who feature in I Wish. Koki Maeda is outstanding as lead character Koichi, ably supported by real-life younger brother Ohshirô Maeda as Ryu. The adults all do their bit too, but this gentle, whimsical, charming little film belongs to the younger members of the cast.
Nothing much happens for much of the movie, which has an improvised feel about it – and that’s fine. Kore-eda’s focus is on the everyday lives of the kids. We are privileged onlookers through a cinematic keyhole. At least, that’s how it feels.
Koichi and his friends are like kids anywhere, complaining about their teacher (whom they underrate, as it turns out), harbouring crushes on young female teachers, revealing their inner worlds incidentally in after-school chit-chat.
Koichi’s refrain is “I don’t get it”, which speaks to a sense of powerlessness and serious malcontent with changes that have been wrought upon him, at the heart of which is his yearning to be back together as a family, and most particularly with his brother Ryu.
Ryu, on the other hand, is seemingly in denial of his inner turmoil, bouncing around with ADD-like energy and radiating a desperate cheerfulness, balanced by quiet, solitary time in the garden nurturing broad beans. His modest vision for the future is of a bounteous yield of beans, which he imagines his absent mother cooking up in one of their favourite dishes. So, like Koichi, he hankers for a family reunion of sorts, but it seems he limits his dreaming, not daring to wish for too much.
When the miracle of the passing bullet trains takes grip of the childrens’ imaginations, everything changes. Suddenly, the impossible seems attainable, and fired by hope the kids mobilise along with their respective friends, raising travelling funds by selling everything they can muster. Some unlikely adults rally to their cause, swept up in their enthusiasm.
It’s endearing and quietly poignant, the youthful romanticism on display here, partly because we recall with inevitable nostalgia our own childhood and the hope and belief in the impossible that accompanied it, partly because we know the kids’ quest is doomed to failure – or is it?
Go quietly to this meandering little flick, accept it on its own terms, and be charmed. Season currently underway at the Somerville.
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