Brothers Koichi and Ryu (played by real life brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda) are forced to live apart when their parents separate. Koichi, the older one, lives with his mother and grandparents in a town directly beneath an active volcano continuously spitting out ash. Younger Ryu lives with his musician father, but takes on the guardian role in their family as his father lives the rock and roll lifestyle.
Koichi wants nothing more than to reunite his family, and when he overhears a conversation between his classmates about something magical happening from the energy of two bullet trains passing each other in opposite directions, he sets out to be at that crossing point of the new bullet train route near his town so that he can wish his family back together.
At first, I had a difficult time buying into the basic premise of the film, because the whole film is based on a random concept without any buildup or mystery to it. The idea of wishes coming true when bullet trains cross comes out of nowhere about a quarter into the film, and you’re forced to just accept it. There’s no supporting evidence for this theory whatsoever, but everyone just takes it at face value.
But then I realized that all it takes for a child to believe in something is just a little bit of wonder and then magically it becomes real to them. Once I accepted that, the film became much more enjoyable as I stopped analyzing the children and simply followed along with them on their journey to the train tracks.
The film goes beyond just Koichi’s wish to have his family live together again. Koichi and Ryu take the trip to the train tracks with their friends, each with their own wishes, varying from wanting to become a successful actress, to wanting to run faster, draw better, and even bringing a family pet back to life. There’s no such thing as the big picture at that age. It’s all about what’s important to them at that moment in time. And yet, some of the true wishes of the children are revealed at the magic moment when the trains cross, and you realize that there is indeed more to them than superficial happiness.
The film certainly takes its time getting to that point, however. It’s slow and somewhat unfocused initially as the audience is not only introduced to the two brothers, but their parents, grandparents and five friends. My impatience started to grow as I began to get tired of the film, but the innocence and playfulness of the film’s second half makes up for the slow introduction.
“I Wish,” 128 minutes, is rated PG and is part of the Consolidated Theatres Spotlight Asia film series. It will be playing at the Kahala Theatres for a limited run beginning on Friday.