It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The two brothers were inseparable, but now their parents have separated, and they live, one with each, in distant towns. This is the problem that must be solved in "I Wish," the latest film by the Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda, who is as gentle and wise as any director now working. His film is built around performances by two real-life brothers who are as unaffected, spirited and lovable as I can imagine, and one of the pleasures of "I Wish" is simply spending time with them.
During his entire career, Kore-eda, 49, has been invested in sympathetic stories about people we warmly identify with. His frequent theme is parents and children. You may remember his well-received "After Life" (1998), about people asked after death to film one chosen event in their lives. Or the more painful "Nobody Knows" (2004), about a family of children left in an apartment to fend for themselves in their mother's absence. I was much moved by "Maborosi" (1995), about a young widow and her son who move to a coastal village where they know no one.
In "I Wish," he enters easily into the lives of Koichi (Koki Maeda), a fourth grader, and Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda), a few years younger. These are blessed children. You can't just tell actors, especially young ones, to "act happy" and expect them to do it. They must in some essential way be happy. Here they're filled with the energy and hopes of childhood, their smiles are quick and open, laughter comes easily, and they seem to run everywhere, as if they never learned to walk.
Koichi lives with his mother. Ryunosuke decided to live with his father, although the reasons of neither boy are discussed. They talk all the time on their cell phones. Koichi's town lives downwind from an always-rumbling volcano, which covers everything with a daily layer of ash that he meticulously sweeps up. It strikes him that no one seems particularly concerned about the volcano, although an eruption would be a disaster. "I don't get it," he says. There are a lot of things he doesn't get, which may be his way of expressing misgivings.