I Wish 奇跡 (2011)
Give a child news that his parents are divorced and he is bound to turn inward. A lot of contemplating on the world he will do, to grow up too fast.
The two brothers are separated by the divorce of their two parents, the father, Kenji, a local musician barely rising in rank, and the mother, Nazomi, a store grocer now living with grandma and grandpa. Far apart, Koichi in rural Kagoshima with Nazomi, and Ryunosuke in a busier Fokuoko, the two brothers stay in close contact, calling often, letting the other know how the day turned.
I Wish provides our two leads, Koichi and Ryunosuke, vulnerabiity, hints at difficulties ahead, and we cannot help but loathe the situation they’re in.
They overhear of a new developing bullet train, one that goes by so quickly it can magically grant a wish to any stationary observer close by. Curious, the brothers make haste to try and meet in the middle for a wish, the journey that makes a neat little plot.
The magic of the film is its reserve, as it never rushes into things. The scenes are set, mastered to be both sweet and bitter. Shots are friendly, reminding of grade school and small ordeals. The thinking on classes and after school adventures, they are made still, neat little reminders on needing retrospection. Then shots are sad, as the reminders to look back are happier than now. We want it to be better, but we don’t always receive what we desire.
Being an older sibling myself to a similarly outgoing brother as Ryunosuke, I felt deeply touched by the relationship between the two real life brothers playing characters. Under those same conditions, I don’t think I could have shown such emotional collection. He becomes the quasi adult on his side of Japan, leaving joy for later. What is important is that his younger brother get what he needs, a deserved happiness he was afforded. Because Koichi is older, he knows his brother has lost those years, the ones he was given with the family all together, and he tries so desperately to reunite it, whatever it takes, a journey even.
There are scenes in the film, when the two brothers are gathering their friends to accompany them, that layers each side\’s method for bundling resources. Too young for jobs, they need money for the trip, and their approaches make for an enjoyable experience, one that still stays with me.
Other characters, grandma, Hideko, and grandpa, Shukichi, add to the enjoyment as their problem is a different one. Older now, they are not as nimble or adventurous as the boys. They prefer to stay still, close to one another. At the same time, they see the pain that lies in Nazomi and her boys, Kenji even, wanting their lives to simplify. Slow down.
A scene in which Koichi helps grandpa Shukichi bake a batch of sweet rolls paints it perfectly, the two trying to make something difficult come true. They know it can come true but dammit if they can’t get it the first time.
Everything is perfect on this, as it tells the story of learning to manage what you can’t. The boys’ mission there, all important, while you learn to forget it too, to let the days just exist for the sake of existing, to suck in deep, willful breaths of fresh, ashy air outside.
The colors are special, taking us toward a their faulted childhood, and the sets are right, not being wrong. Perfect, as if they were lived in already, situated from the day before.
The music never takes itself to the front, proof of overall maturity, letting the characters speak of themselves without the boost of sad, melancholy strings present in other works. Rather, the film takes to mostly quirky tunes, using a lilting beat to soothe the worry toward the boys. Later though, a nice montage of their journey works wonders to bring on the tears, music tuned down, a minor bar of guitar fingerings. It\’s sad, but ultimately necessary.
Edits take time, using the characters for story, rather than place forced emphasis on something not there. It’s the camera, really, that dances the frame, ever so slightly rocking from one side to another, sometimes using a shoulder rig, breaths and neck hunches to steady it. Cinematographer, Yutaka Yamazaki, makes for a memorable outing to the movies, whether at home alone or with a sibling close by.
As for Hirokazu Koreeda, a true master of the fictional documentary type of storytelling, the work is there to study and enjoy, no detail without a tip or hint toward making strides in, what I argue, are the right directions of film making magic. He manages to stay true to the boys, giving us grief when they sometimes fall, and keeps the adults a forgivable bunch as they know not what they do.
A fine job this piece is, and I’m completely satisfied having watched it. It will surely stay close to me as I’m sure it will too for you.
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