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In 'I Wish,' director Hirokazu Kore-eda explores brotherhood, and bullet trains

May 15, 2012|By Susan King
  • Ohshiro Maeda and Koki Maeda in "I Wish."
Ohshiro Maeda and Koki Maeda in "I Wish." (Magnolia Pictures )

Eight years ago, Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda explored childhood and family in the acclaimed drama "Nobody Knows," about a 12-year-old boy who must take care of his siblings when their mother runs off with a new boyfriend. Kore-eda returns to a similar theme but in a lighter, whimsical vein in "I Wish," which opened Friday.

The leisurely paced comedy stars real-life brothers Koki and Ohshiro Maeda as siblings who live hundreds of miles apart from each other on the island of Kyushu after their parents break up. The elder brother, Koichi (13-year-old Koki), lives in Kagoshima with his mother and grandparents; Ryu (11-year-old Ohshiro) goes with his father, a budding rock musician who has problems holding down a real job, to Hakata. Hearing that a wish will come true if one witnesses the moment that the two new bullet trains first pass each other, the brothers concoct a plan to reunite to watch two trains pass, so they can wish for their parents to get back together. Their wily grandfather helps the boys in their plan.

Kore-eda shared his thoughts about "I Wish" via email.

Q: Did you ever have a wish as a child?

A: My parents would get along. Typhoons would not tear down our house. I would have my own room.

Q: I am very intrigued by the cakes that the boys' grandfather bakes. What are they and why did you have that as a plot point in the film?

A: It is a traditional sweet called Karukan. .... Its ingredients are so simple -- it's made out of yam and sugar. The ancestor on my father's side came from there, Kagoshima; when I first visited there close to 30 years ago, I had my first bite of Karukan, and that made a lasting impression to me, so I used the cake in this film.

Q: I read that you had a basic idea for "I Wish" but really didn't write the script until you cast the two brothers in the film. True?

A: Yes. Originally, it was a love story between a boy who lives in Kagoshima, and a girl in Hakata. But when I met the brothers, I started to think what I could do to film them, so the story you saw on screen was born.

Q: A lot of directors have a difficult time directing children, but just like Steven Spielberg and Francois Truffaut, you have a tremendous ability to get naturalistic performances from child performers. How do you work with them? Do you have children?

A: Though it would be too much to compare me to these two great directors, I'm very flattered and honored. When I work with children, I take the approach of speaking in their language, speaking in the way they understand. That is all. I have one child. She is four.

Q: Whenever we see films from Japan, they are generally set in Tokyo, so it was a real pleasure to see a film set in Could you talk about the cities and why you chose them?

A: I chose Kagoshima and Hakata for the fact that they were the departure and arrival stations for a bullet train line. Kagoshima ... is my roots, so that is another reason.

Q: What film are you working on now?

A: It's about an elite man working in Tokyo, who often talks about money and behind people's back.

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