Koichi, the 12-year-old boy at the heart of Hirokazu Koreeda's I Wish, is bright, polite and hot for teacher. He also does his chores, like cleaning up the ash in his bedroom from the rumbling volcano that he and everyone else in town can see in the distance.
And yet, the townsfolk don't talk about the menacing mushroom cloud: They'd rather discuss the new bullet train, which Koichi (Koki Maeda) believes can make wishes come true for anyone who witnesses two trains passing each other at top speed.
I Wish is an affectionate slice of middle-class Japanese life that looks pretty much like life as we know it. Koichi lives with his mother, and his little brother lives with their father, a raffish musician whose attitude provoked the split. In flashback, we explore the practical Koichi's relationship with his prodigal dad ("there's room in the world for wasteful things"), and how it troubles the thoughtful boy when the family begins to dissolve. The volcano and the train are at once literal and metaphoric in Koreeda's handsomely integrated meditation. Not too much actually happens in this minimalist drama, unless you consider the beating of the human heart to be something. Koreeda clearly does. In Japanese, with subtitles. Fri., June 22, through Tue., June 26. Melwood