By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Entertainment Editor
Three boys standing at a train crossing are amazed when the woman they had seen on the other side of the tracks has disappeared once the train has passed. For a moment, they are stupefied, looking up and down the street for the person who seems to have miraculously vanished.
The scene sets the tone for “I Wish,” the latest from renowned Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, now available on home video from Magnolia Pictures. Actually, the Japanese title, “Kiseki” (Miracle), is more appropriate.
This is a film that is blunt about how true miracles are about as scarce as a Hostess Twinkie, but in the same breath reminds us that you don’t need a miracle to make your wishes come true.
The story revolves around a pair of brothers who, because of their parents’ break-up, have themselves been separated. They are living at opposite ends of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, one with each parent. The boys, played with a masterful ease by real-life brothers and comedy team Ohshiro and Koki Maeda, get wind of an urban legend that ensures the granting of any wishes made at the moment opposing bullet trains pass one another at top speed.
Each brother enlists a few friends to arrange a meeting near the city of Kumamoto – they have calculated to be in just the right spot at the magic moment. The other kids have come with their own wishes as well – one longs to make it as an actress, another hopes for the return of his recently deceased dog (which he has brought along on the trip).
Indeed, several of the adults in the film are dealing with dreams unfulfilled, and that only makes the viewer keener to see the boys succeed.
Not surprisingly, the journey in “I Wish” ends up bearing the most value, not unlike the odyssey undertaken by the quartet of friends in Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age classic, “Stand by Me.”
In perhaps the most important sequence of the movie, Koreeda throws a curveball. The kids, nearly at their destination to make their wishes, are halted in their tracks by a simple, wondrous sight: a field of blooming flowers, pink cosmos, specifically.
They are captivated by the seemingly other-worldly colors, and this miracle of nature is explained simply, with a shot of a handful of seeds.
The plant’s name is the Greek word meaning a universe in balance, and that is ultimately the true power of “I Wish,” the idea that “miracles” aren’t what they seem, but wishes can be that which motivates a person to achieve. It is a thoughtful, elegant piece that makes us wish more movies were made this well.
On the Web: http://www.magpictures.com/iwish/