Koreeda Hirokazu Braves Girl-and-Boy-land with I Wish
It oughta be easy, to borrow a line from Bruce. Oughta be simple enough. Why, then, do so many child actors in Hollywood pictures come off stiff, stilted, implausible, and suffocatingly cute?
I don’t know and I wish I did. That isn’t the only wish I have of course, but I Wish (screening at the Varsity), the latest from Japanese director Koreeda Hirokazu, revolves, in one realm, around wishing. This is not the corn-syrup sweetness you expect from wishing kids. They run, jump, sweat, and occasionally burp and giggle, quite naturalistically. And gradually–not swiftly, for nothing important comes swiftly in a Koreeda Hirokazu movie–the kids’ lives evolve and thrive around their wishing.
Real-life siblings Maeda Koki and Maeda Oshiro co-star as two brothers separated by the separation of their parents. They keep in touch via their cells, excitedly sharing the play-by-play of their separate lives. But they are growing in two different directions, with two very different sets of supporting casts. One brother finds comfort in his mother and his mother’s family.
The other one mostly hangs out with his father, played both wisfully and hilariously by Odagiri Jō as a wanna-be rock star who never quite made it, and never quite got over the idea that one day, he could make it. I’m no almost-rock star, but I know the feeling, and the father, like anyone else in the film, gets his foibles exposed, but with a quiet respect not found in many Western films.
So the kids must make a monumental journey, and they will return from this journey with either reward or disappointment. Except that the director has his own casual, gentle way of guiding these things along. He makes sure that the boys bring plenty of friends, and plenty of things to talk and think about. The movie is sometimes a little too easygoing for its own good, but it shows us something we need to see onscreen. It shows us the best of our own lives, projected large.