Picturehouse Communications Manager Maya Nakamura writes about this week’s Discover Tuesday title, I WISH.
From his 1995 film MABOROSHI, about a young widow trying to start a new life with her child, to the magic-realist AFTER LIFE and Cannes winner NOBODY KNOWS, Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s works have explored themes of loss and grief in diverse contexts. They draw on the Japanese literary and aesthetic tradition of mono no aware, often translated as ‘the sadness of things’, an elegiac sense of yearning that arises from the reality that nothing lasts forever.
Koreeda’s previous film, STILL WALKING (2008), which portrayed the dynamics of a family 15 years after the death of a cherished son, earned him comparisons to the great Yasujiro Ozu (TOKYO STORY) for the way it teased out deep resonance from its finely drawn day-to-day episodes of ordinary people.
I WISH follows in a similar subtle vein; as the closely observed, naturalistic depictions of one broken family in contemporary Japan play out, the quietly moving moments glance over the mundane like skipping stones.
Young brothers Koichi and Ryu are separated when their parents break up. Koichi and the fretful mother move in with her parents in Kagoshima, while Ryu opts to live with the slacker father in a rundown flat cum band rehearsal space at the opposite end of Kyushu island.
Koichi sees the situation as a temporary predicament, his greatest wish being that the family be reunited and live together once more. His unhappiness in his new surroundings is reflected in his repeated attempts to wipe clean the volcanic ash, emitted from the ominously smoking Sakurajima across the bay, which gently falls on the city most days.
Koichi’s hope for a return to the old life is ignited when he hears from a classmate about the new bullet-train line opening on the island. When two trains travelling in opposite directions pass each other, he tells Koichi, the force will be so great that any wish you make at that moment will come true: a miracle will occur.
From that day Koichi is consumed by planning to meet up with Ryu midway along the bullet-train tracks, enlisting a small group of friends, each with a wish of his own, to make the pilgrimage with him.
I WISH is about the breaking and healing of growing up: when your most basic beliefs and most ardent attachments are challenged, when something sinks and you find yourself in a new way of being. But not before a band of boys and girls cling onto the railings and cry out their greatest wishes into the roar of two passing trains. They are the wishes of children: some impossible, some whimsical, some universal, some that may just come true.
I WISH screens at Picturehouse Cinemas on 26 March.
★★★★★ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
★★★★★ – Time Out London