54: Hirokazu Koreeda
One of the great humane artists of our time.
Kathleen Norris on THREE BY HIROKAZU KOREEDA
The Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda has become one of my favorite filmmakers, brilliantly depicting family relationships so that we can see ourselves in the siblings, in-laws, parents, and grandparents who populate his movies. One recurring theme is parents who are failing in their responsibilities to their children, forcing them to be the adults in the family.
It’s an unfair burden and Koreeda lets us see the heartbreaking ways that children cope. “I Wish” (2010; the Japanese title is “Kiseki,” or “The Miracle”) opens with a scene of a boy, Koichi, dusting in his room. He lives in Kagoshima with his mother and her parents and is wiping up ash from the huge volcano that looms over the city. His beloved younger brother Ryu has chosen to live with their father in Fukuoka.
The father is a guitarist in a struggling rock band, and his wife had grown so exasperated with his not having a steady job that the couple separated. Koichi and Ryu stay in touch over the phone without their parents knowledge, and when Koichi says he wants to reunite the family, Ryu, recalling his parents’ many fights, wonders if that’s a good idea.
As Ryu does homework backstage at the club where his father’s band performs, he asks, “What is administrative re-evaluation?” His dad replies that it’s a way of saying, “It’s a waste, cut it.” He adds that there’s room in the world for wasteful things, and we sense that he’s grieving over his wife’s viewing his music as a waste of time.
The dispirited mother is unhappy that she’s had to settle for working as a supermarket clerk. Distracted with worry about her younger son, she tells her parents she’s worried about Ryu getting enough to eat, because like his father he doesn’t eat foods that are good for him, like cabbage. That becomes a running joke in the film, one of several comic elements that bring welcome relief. When the grandfather gathers with several cronies to gossip and gamble he asks his wife to provide better beer and she replies that it all comes out as pee. Her recreation consists of practicing hula with a lively group of women.
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