Th­ese magic mo­ments

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILMREVIEWS - TARA BRADY

I WISH ★★★

Di­rected by Hirokazu KoreEda. Star­ring Koki Maeda, Oshiro Maeda, Kirin Kiki, Joe Oda­giri

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Club, IFI, Dublin, 127 It’s the kind of ur­ban myth that could only have come from a happy, ide­alised Ja­panese school­yard: when the bul­let train line opens, the en­ergy surge that re­sults from the pass­ing north­bound and south­bound trains will be mag­i­cal enough to grant wishes to all who wit­ness the event.

It’s an ap­peal­ing no­tion for 12-year-old Koichi, who re­cently re­lo­cated to Kagoshima, a city shrouded in vol­canic ash. Here he en­joys time with his mother, his grand­par­ents and his new school chums, but that doesn’t pre­vent him from pin­ing for his lit­tle brother Ryu, who has stayed with their slacker mu­si­cian dad in Fukuoka, al­most 200 kilo­me­tres away. Might the pass­ing trains mirac­u­lously al­low for a fam­ily rec­on­cil­i­a­tion?

Koichi and Ryu soon re­cruit oth­ers into re­spec­tive ex­pe­di­tions to­ward the new train line. Each of their would-be trav­el­ling com­pan­ions has their own wish: one kid wants to marry the school li­brar­ian; one wants to be a base­ball star; an­other dreams of be­ing an ac­tress in Tokyo. To­gether they merge into an adorable gang that owes as much to Ozu’s Good Morn­ing as it does The Goonies.

Tak­ing a cue from Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neigh­bour To­toro, I Wish re­fuses to place its cen­tral sib­lings in jeop­ardy or to at­tach any ma­jor plot de­vel­op­ments to its defin­ing jour­ney. This is a whim­si­cal, sum­mery, in­no­cent pic­ture, un­trou­bled by any real un­der­stand­ing of larger, grown-up prob­lems.

The re­sults are not as mem­o­rable as Af­ter Life, Hirokazu’s bril­liant 1998 de­pic­tion of a very pleas­ing pur­ga­tory. The tone can err on the sug­ary side of cutesypie. But the in­ter­ac­tions be­tween real-life brothers Koki and Oshiro Maeda work to light up the screen ev­ery time.

Even from un­der that blan­ket of ash, Ja­pan has never looked sun­nier or sweeter.

Bul­let train on the brain: Koki and Oshiro Maeda in I Wish

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