Two brothers are separated when their parents divorce. Koichi lives with his mother and grandparents in Kagoshima where its active volcano rains ash every day. Younger sibling Ryunosuke lives with dad in Fukuoka in a house his father shares with other struggling musicians. Koichi dreams of having his parents reunite. He is older than Ryu and is possessed of a feeling of loss headed into his adolescence. He becomes obsessed with the idea of the volcano erupting, causing them to move back to their old home in Osaka to live as a family again. Ryu is younger and much more carefree, living a kind of independence where he happily grows beans and vegetables and dances and plays music with his father’s band each night.
The bullet train is being expanded to Kagoshima and the city, including the boys grandfather, are preparing for it. Koichi soon learns that there is a place where two bullet trains pass at the same time, both flying at 260km per hour, causing a miraculous release of energy that can grant any wish. He and his brother plan to meet at this location and make wishes to reunite their family.
The boys’ mother has had to take up working in a supermarket, but still provides Koichi with an orderly and safe family environment of clean clothes, chores and daily family meals. Ryu wakes his bohemian father most mornings, packs his own lunch and runs like wild everywhere he goes, buying greasy dinner from local merchants on his way home. Koichi attends school in uniform, and takes part in rigorous swimming lessons. Ryu wears no uniform and thrashes wildly in the water with his friends. The age gap also divides their interests largely. Koichi is considering girls and family, perplexed by longing and doubt about the future, where Ryu seeks joy from his immediate environment and he only looks to the future of his vegetables.
I Wish is a stunning coming-of-age film that draws diverse portraits of changing Japanese provinces, its cinematography opening up to the awe of huge natural and industrial wonders, combined with the camera’s handheld and playful approach to its interiors. It captures the struggles of a family living apart, through two willful and engaging young boys who use their belief in miracles to try and decide their own destinies.
* a version of this post originally appeared at filmblerg.com