Kiseki (I Wish)

Don't believe the hype: the kids are surprisingly all right

Kiseki (I Wish)


Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Koichi Maeda, Ohshiro Maeda, Nene Otsuka, Joe Odagiri
Time Out rating:

The marketing campaign for Kiseki ('I Wish') hasn't done it any favours. The latest film by Hirokazu Koreeda, a director best known for sensitively crafted pictures like Nobody Knows and After Life, comes on a wave of advance publicity that makes it look like a two-hour advert for the new Kyushu shinkansen masquerading as a sentimental summer kids' movie. It's curious, because the kinds of viewer most likely to be lured by those godawful posters are probably going to have a rum time. There are no fart jokes, precious little schmaltz, and (mild spolier alert) the cute dog gets it. This isn't Koreeda's big, commercial sell-out – far from it.

The story is split between Kagoshima and Fukuoka, where brothers Koichi and Ryunosuke (played by real-life siblings Koki and Ohshiro Maeda, who perform as the comedy duo Maeda Maeda) live apart following their parents' divorce. While Koichi is shacked up with his mother (Nene Otsuka) and grandparents, Ryunosuke now lives in a grotty bungalow with a musician dad (Joe Odagiri) who's barely more grown-up than he is. The two keep in regular contact by mobile phone, but Koichi dreams of getting the family back together, even if it takes a volcanic eruption to make it happen. As the opening of the new shinkansen link between the cities approaches, he becomes convinced that something miraculous will occur when the trains pass each other for the first time; if he can be there for the momentous event, maybe his own wish will come true.

Koreeda brings to this tale the same deft touch that made his previous films so interesting, enriching a seemingly slight narrative with a wealth of naturalistic detail – not for nothing has he been hailed as an heir to Ozu. The central story of Kiseki frequently takes a back seat to domestic minutiae and sideplots (Isao Hashizume, as the brothers' grandfather, is particularly good value). Most impressive, though, are the performances of the young cast: there's little of the affectation that can make kid-centred films such a tough watch, even if Ohshiro Maeda, as the younger brother, is perhaps a little too cartoonish at times.

At over two hours, Kiseki would have benefitted from some filleting in the editing suite, and while there are a few laugh-out-loud moments it probably lacks the punchiness required to achieve crowd-pleaser status. For anyone who's followed Koreeda's career thus far, this will probably come as a relief. The marketing department is going to be pissed, though.

Kiseki opens in Japan on June 11

By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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