Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest is not just a film about children (like NOBODY KNOWS); it’s one that seems specifically made for children. That’s not a criticism, but it’s an important consideration. The peppy soundtrack, the juvenile (to adult ears) dialogue, one fantastical turn of events—all are meant to appeal to a younger audience. Fortunately, Kore-eda doesn’t speak down to that audience. Instead, he’s come up with an intelligent kids’ film whose appeal extends to all ages.

The story hinges on a legend that one can make a wish at a point where two particular trains intersect. Thus, two brothers in a family whom, due to their parent’s separation, has fractured (one remains in Tokyo with their father, the other has moved to Kagoshima with the mother) plan to meet up at this midway point to reunite and make their wishes. Both bring along friends who also each have a desired wish. After much exposition regarding the brothers and their separate, contrasting environments, the wish-making pilgrimage comes late in the film and it’s the most compelling part of it; still, the preceding scenes are also important, for they’re full of the rich character development one expects from the director.

When the kids finally make their wishes, Kore-eda inserts a splendid montage calling back to objects and settings from throughout the film, driving home how resonant these ordinary things are in relation to the wishes. It would have made for a lovely conclusion, but the film goes on for another five or six scenes, each one suggesting a potential ending before moving on to the next.  This same shapelessness somewhat diminished his last film, AIR DOLL and I hope this doesn’t become an ongoing problem. Up through its climax, however, I WISH succinctly places the viewer at a child’s viewpoint and does so without being sentimental or condescending. Grade: A-

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