Train A leaves the station traveling south at 220km/s. Train B leaves the station traveling north, also at 220km/s. When they meet in the middle, a miracle will happen. Only in a Japanese film could a math problem loathed around the world become the plot to hang a children’s adventure film on, but that’s exactly what Hirokazu Koreeda does here with his knee-high attempt at magical realism. Koichi and Ryu (Ohshiro and Koki Maeda) are brothers who are separated by hundreds of miles after their parents divorce. Although they talk on the phone often, it’s been too long since they’ve seen each other, and neither of them understand why their parents split anyway. With the completion of a bullet train comes the promise of a miracle that may very well, if Koichi and Ryu have anything to say about it, bring their parents back together. With a group of friends — each with their own miracles in mind — they set out on the long, frustrating journey to right the wrongs in their lives.
Although I Wish starts out a little too slow with its intricate set up, it quickly gathers enough pace to see the journey through to the finish line. There is something utterly endearing about the blissful stupidity of youth on display here. These kids don’t know what they don’t know, and their wishes show that, but each of them will come out spiritually richer from their adventure, if only for having braved it and having believed in miracles with all their might. You lose the ability to believe in things with all of your might as an adult, and that’s by far the worst thing we lose as we age. Koreeda’s touching story leaves a satisfying wake in its path for that reason: there are still stupid adventures in Koichi’s and Ryu’s future, and in all of these kids’ futures probably. They’ll eventually learn what they don’t know, but not just yet. I Wish may not reach the heights Koreeda has reached in the past, with Still Walking or Nobody Knows, but there may not be a better director of children alive today.