THE UNEXPECTED JOYS OF CHILDREN AT PLAY
It would be easy to say, given his new film, I Wish, and his other classic film about children, Nobody Knows, that Hirokazu Kore-Eda has a way with children; but given the small body of authentic masterpieces he has directed – Maborosi, After Life, Still Walking – it is just as well to say that he has a way with the human condition. Kore-Eda’s uniqueness lies in the tension he creates between his loose and casual visual style and his drum-tight thematic focus. And I Wish is a beautiful example of that directorial vision.
The story of his newest film couldn’t be simpler. Brothers Koichi and Ryunosake are separated by their parents’ divorce, Koichi living in Kagoshima with his mother and grandparents, Ryunosake in Hakata with his father. Koichi’s dream is to see his family reunited, his memory of their life together having less to do with reality than with some romantic sense of familial love, and with his real passion to be reunited with his younger brother. Seen though his eyes, his mother seems to have been cast adrift by the divorce; but just how true that may be is left to our own intuition. It is Koichi’s world we are entering, and there is always a thin line between the behavior of his new family and the way Koichi perceives them.
Ryunosake is as cheerful as Koichi is serious; life with his father is seen more as it probably really is: hardly perfect, the father being an itinerant musician with a devil-may-care attitude; but not without its pleasant side, since it allows Ryunosake a certain freedom which Koichi doesn’t really let himself take pleasure in.
And into their lives comes this new bullet train, which connects Kagoshima with Hakata, and which Koichi overhears can create miracles when the trains, at top speed, pass each other. To make his desire real, Koichi decides it will take such a miracle. And with a group of his friends, each hoping to find his or her own miracle, Koichi sets out to go half-way, where he meets Ryunosake and his friends (who seem more bent on having an adventure than searching for a miracle).
But, ultimately, the epiphanies that come to these children have everything to do with the miracle of growing up. Kore-Eda never lets us forget that these are not only children but children at play. It is their playfulness that is captured so brilliantly. And the real gravity of the film comes in the remarkable performances of Koki Maeda and his real-life brother Ohshiro Maeda as Koichi and Ryunosake; they are so natural that, as with all the children who have been so beautifully cast, they make the ordinariness of everyday life shine with the sheer buoyancy of their unformed youth and the high spirits they display, even when they are utterly sober-minded.
This is a film about what children want to do, what they can do, what they must do, and how, eventually, they find their own way; the real miracle, of course, lies in self-discovery. The lightness of tone reminds one of another revered Japanese director – Yasujiro Ozu – whose melancholy comedies – Passing Fancy and I Was Born, But… – like, Kore-Eda’s I Wish, stand tall among the greatest films on the subject of childhood.
I Wish (Kiseki)
now playing in New York and Los Angeles
for upcoming cities and more information, visit http://www.magpictures.com/iwish/