Japanese Railways commissioned writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda to make I Wish as publicity for the Shinkansen Bullet Train, and in most cases the film overcomes the origin of its financing to become a feel-good movie about imperfect circumstance. Two boys are separated when their mother and father divorce. The younger kid plants vegetables with dad and meets some great girls, while mom sends the older boy to school where he meets two great boys. Though their family life is split, they're never actually alone. The younger son stops believing the situation was any different and the connotation he'll forget his brother and mother sends responsibility hungry elder bro on a tear. The boys devise a plan: they hear if two trains pass each other at precisely the same moment any wish they cry out will be fulfilled. So the brothers and their friends meet in the one part of Japan where the trains pass simultaneously to make their wishes. One boy wants to run faster, another wants his father to stop gambling. One boy will forsake his wish if his little dog would just come back to life. The brothers struggle with their common wish separately: they want the family to be back together, but realize they'd get that wish to the detriment of those around them. Their act is selfless, which fits a project that's meant to serve the public good (and Japanese Railways by extension) but the kids' accepting their parents' individuality and their own maturity is a bittersweet ending. A coming of age story in which the children better the world for the adults, Kore-Eda's heart is in the right place (even if his hand is piping too much J-pop into the score) so if audiences don't know the film's agenda they're likely to take it as an uncontroversial charmer, a family story about surviving hardship and maturing with only scrapes and bruises to show for it.
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Cast: Koki Maeda, Ohshirô Maeda, Ryôga Hayashi, Cara Uchida, Yoshio Harada, Hiroshi Abe
Director/Screenwriter: Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Producer: (None listed anywhere)
Genre: Dramedy; Japanese-language, subtitled
Running time: 128 min
Release date: May 11 NY, May 18 LA