Japanese Railways commissioned writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda to make I Wish as publicity for the Shinkansen bullet train. In response, the director of Still Walking, one of 2010's best, delivered a cinematic poem.
Nothing much happens in this happy tribute to the gentle art of being human, unless you count a bunch of immensely likable kids taking a long trip on a bullet train, embarking from innocence to arrive at necessary knowledge of change, loss and death. It's an exuberant yet tender journey, never descending into saccharine cuteness or manufactured melodrama.
Kore-eda's slowly unfolding children's tale vibrates with small, incremental revelations. The rhythm of the film is like breathing, the respirations of family life, old age, childhood—even of the Earth. When grandpa or grandson raises a finger to test which way a volcano's ash is blowing that day, the two might be measuring the existential currents of I Wish, originally and better-titled Miracle.
That active volcano dominates the island where Koichi (Maeda Koki) has lived with his grandparents ever since mom (Otsuka Nene) left his jobless rock 'n' roller dad (Odagiri Jô) and little brother Ryu (Maeda Oshirô). Life is good under the volcano: Grandpa hangs out with his grizzled, often tipsy cronies, discussing whether the traditional karukan cake the old man bakes should change with the times, perhaps borrowing the color and shape of the new bullet train. Koichi's grandmother is taking a dance class; she practices the graceful hand and arm movements of Hawaiian hula in their little kitchen.
More of life under the volcano at http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie-critic-reviews/i-wish/