“I Wish”

(PG), written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Screens Saturday and Sunday at the Dryden

Sometimes, when watching youngsters act, it’s painfully obvious that they’re reciting lines written by some middle-aged guy. The other option might be to let the kids improvise, but that sounds as though it could test the patience of even the saintliest saint. So I’m not sure how Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda was able to coax such natural, lived-in performances from the largely pint-sized cast of the lovely and heartwarming “I Wish.” It no doubt helps that the two main characters are siblings in real life; Koki and Ohshiro Maeda play Koichi and Ryu, brothers evenly divided between estranged parents, at least one of them hoping for a reconciliation.

The introspective Koichi’s plan is to wish for a volcanic eruption that will force him and his mother back to the home where the noisy and madcap Ryu still lives with their father. This hinges on the wish being made at a very specific time and place, and “I Wish” follows Koichi and Ryu separately in the days leading up to it. The film drags a bit when it’s just adults on screen, probably because Kore-eda — he also worked with a bunch of talented children in 2004’s wrenching “Nobody Knows” — traffics so effectively in the seemingly throwaway but beautifully crucial elements of being a kid, like cleaning your room, getting sidetracked by some dazzling flowers, and the quiet contemplation of life’s unfolding mysteries.


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