Year: 2011 | Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda | Roundup Rating: A+
For a few weeks now, I have been struggling to write a film review/analysis for this Hirokazu Koreeda hit film. Not because there's a conflict of emotions, but because as usual I was simply suffering from a simple case of writer's block. I feel like a deer in a headlights while sitting down in front of my laptop, no words flowing, as in zero, nada, nothing. But of course I have to start somewhere in order to get the ball rolling, and the introductory piece on my dried up state of mind is a perfect foot forward to the door.
Koreeda's most recent film "Like Father, Like Son" is not the topic of my conversation for this entry but his prior work preceding the latter. I have to say, I've become a Koreeda enthusiast this year. There is something arresting about his films, regardless of them being in the dramatic genre they were never soap operatic, what I mean to say is, never exaggerated or overacting. He just shows us life, pure and simple.
Kiseki (Miracle in English) or I Wish is about two brothers (played by real life Maeda siblings) living apart in different cities after their parents separation. The eldest, Oosako, lives with their mother in Kagoshima, and the youngest, Ryu, chose to stay with their father in Fukuoka.
When their parents separated Oosako and his mother moves in at his grandparents home. He complains every day about the ashes coming from the volcano and wonders why their school is erected at the top of the hill. Because he is surrounded by older people, a mother that is constantly concerned with her newfound responsibilities as a single parent, and becoming a middle school student in his next year, Oosako's experience throughout the film could be seen as his own "coming-of-age". His initial intention for making a wish at the two exact passing Shinkansen (bullet train) is for the Sakurajima volcano to errupt just so their family could be reunited like old times in Osaka. His friend reacted that "if that happens then all of us would die". Because he is a kid - driven by what he wants - he doesn't care about that major consequence, to him at that time, what matters most is getting his family back together and nothing else, not even the world. But afterwards, when he spend a day with his brother and friends, Oosako realizes that being alive and having the people you cherish into your life is already a miracle itself. He has grownup in a way, thereby, he waved his wish and accepted what he has at the present.
Ryu, on the other hand, is a kid and remains as so during the beginning and ending of the movie. He is relaxed and happy-go-lucky compared to his brother; take into consideration that he lives with a father who is more of a friend than a parent. Ryu embodies a child's innocence, his attitude towards life is to enjoy and have fun with his friends. He doesn't take things too seriously, nor fret about a single argument he had with his brother, because to him everything would be okay later since they are a family.
Kiseki may look and sound like a children's film but it's actually and essentially about adults. Only we are seeing it through the eyes and perspective of its children. What they think is their version of the truth, but no less than the truth of things. But more practical and less complicated if you ask me. There were moments in the movie where I kept on saying, "yes that's how it is...that's right." I think when people get older we made simple things difficult to understand, the answer is right there in front of us and yet we keep on skirting the details around. For example, when Ryu showed their father's CD to Oosako and he asked him what Indie means, his older brother said, "it means you have to work hard." What a spot on and simple answer to a question that older people tends to complicate about. (FYI: Indie artists have to work doubly hard to make their music and to have it heard by the world.) I think older people are simply stupid and it's through children we realized the important things that we always forget, that life is short and it is best spent when you are together with the people that you love.
My favorite idea or part of the film is the sponge cake that the grandfather keeps on making for the opening of the new Kyushu Shinkansen. Oosako finds the flavor faint or mellow but admitted later on that it started to grew on him. He said to his grandfather that he fed Ryu the cake he made and asked him what his brother think about it and he said, "he's still too young." If you put it this way, the analogy on the flavor of the sponge cake is about "adjusting to life." We may not like our situation and may be it won't change the way we wanted it to be but we'll get used to it because that's how we survive. We have to accept and learn to love what we have even though it's not something that we like in order for us to grow as a person.