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Real-life brothers Ohshirô Maeda and Koki Maeda star as close siblings in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s masterful I WISH

I WISH (KISEKI) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2011)
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway at 63rd St., 212-757-2280
Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston St. at Mercer St., 212-995-2570
Opens Friday, May 11

Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda’s I Wish is an utterly delightful, absolutely charming tale of family and all of the hopes and dreams associated with it. Real-life brothers Koki Maeda and Ohshirô Maeda of the popular MaedaMaeda comedy duo star as siblings Koichi and Ryu, who have been separated as a result of their parents’ divorce. Twelve-year-old Koichi (Koki) lives with his mother (Nene Ohtsuka) and maternal grandparents (Kirin Kiki and Isao Hashizume) in Kagoshima in the shadow of an active volcano that continues to spit ash out all over the town, while the younger Ryu lives with his father (Joe Odagiri), a wannabe rock star, in Fukuoka. When Koichi hears that if a person makes a wish just as the two new high-speed bullet trains pass by each other for the first time the wish will come true, he decides he must do everything in his power to be there, along with Ryu, so they can wish for their family to get back together. Kore-eda, who has previously explored the nature of family in such powerful films as Maborosi, Nobody Knows, and Still Walking, once again displays his deft touch at handling complex relationships in I Wish, the Japanese title of which is Kiseki, or Miracle. Originally intended to be a film about the new Kyushu Shinkansen bullet train, the narrative shifted once Kore-eda auditioned the Maeda brothers, deciding to make them the center of the story, and they shine as two very different siblings, one young and impulsive, the other older and far more serious. Everyone in the film, child and adult, wishes for something more out of life, whether realistic or not. Ryu’s friend Megumi (Kyara Uchida) wants to be an actress; Koichi’s friend Makoto (Seinosuke Nagayoshi) wants to be just like his hero, baseball star Ichiro Suzuki; and the brothers’ grandfather wants to make a subtly sweet, old-fashioned karukan cake that people will appreciate. Much of the dialogue is improvised, including by the children, lending a more realistic feel to the film, although it does get a bit too goofy in some of its later scenes. Written, directed, and edited by Kore-eda, I Wish is a loving, bittersweet celebration of the child in us all.

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