I Wish Reviews
It's sort of a modern Ozu movie. It has a similar pace and just like some of Ozu's movies, it's about family in a changing society.
"I Wish" is lighter and less focused than Hirokazu Koreeda's other films that I have seen with an engaging plot that it occasionally forgets in favor of subplots like the grandfather(Isao Hashizume) making cake and other digressions that seem more suited for television programs that have the time to fully explore them.(As good as his movies usually are, this is not the first time they have reminded me of television.) Admittedly, in the grandfather's case, that might have something to do with new traditions superseding old traditions in Japan. In any case, there is just too much good will accumulated to not recommend this movie, despite its flaws and its protracted ending.
The suburban tale of a troubled family told with a touch of fantasy and adventure draws obvious parallels with Spielberg, and it is more than worthy of the comparison. Director Hirokazu Koreeda elicits two incredibly natural performances from the boys (real life brothers) and indeed all of the young cast - in the scenes where they're hanging out he has seemingly turned the camera on some local school friends, their relationships seem so genuine. Koichi and Ryu's story is interspersed with those of their friends and family, all of whom have their own struggles and aspirations. Be it their grandfather's desire to bake a successful sponge cake, or Koichi's friend's dream of marrying the beautiful school librarian, every character - no matter how minor - is portrayed as a real person with their own hopes and fears. As a result it is constantly engrossing, establishing an affinity with everyone on screen and also allowing some fantastically warm funny moments to emerge from the characters themselves. Despite its concentration on character over narrative, and its general unpredictability, the film still has a mainstream tone and is more than capable of cultivating a wide, varied audience.
A quiet natural film that avoids obvious melodrama and sentimentality, it retains a thoughtful depth about what it is to dream and hope for that which is just out of reach. As is often the case with the most affecting cinema its power lies in what the viewer brings to it from their own lives, and how much they are willing to invest in the film. With no obvious moral or message, it has the potential to be interpreted in many ways. A philosophical yet thoroughly accessible film that effortlessly gets under the skin.
This film is a perfect example of the slow film that divides opinion. Those that love it say that it is gentle, thoughtful, measured; while those that couldn't stand it say that it's meandering, nothing happens. It's easy to empathise with both crowds, though by my score you can guess I've drunk the Kool-aid.
It is a slow film (my favourite euphemism for this is 'patient' by the way) and has modest ambitions, but it certainly is also an adventure film - it's just that the adventure is on the scale of your average holiday special. The plot itself is not the main reason to like this movie and neither are the characters, who never rise above representing their wishes.
Instead the enjoyment comes from the cinematography, which is never less than beautiful, and the soundtrack which are woven together to create a really joyful experience. "I Wish" is genuinely life-affirming, without straying too far into sentimentality (though it is guilty of this at times). It also does a great job of expressing to this wanna-be otaku what Japanese life in a small town might be like - or at least better than most anime does.
It struck me when leaving the cinema that I rarely watch new live-action Japanese films - the last one I can think of was the excellent 'Departures', which won "Best Foreign Language Film" in 2009. When I think of modern Japanese cinema, I think of speedily-made Takashi Miike horror films that cling to a mid-90s burst of inspiration. If "I Wish" does anything, it will at least make me re-evaluate the non-animated output of the great cultural melting pot of Japan.
They decide to go to that place and make a wish...
I do not know how you can get such wonderful performances from small children, but this film certainly does.