Kyle J. Steenblik

Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here is emotionally impressive

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rs_634x939-140528062250-634.Wish-I-Was-Here-Poster-JR-52814 This is a story about finding the people you have become while you were busy trying to live the life you always imagined. It is a story about family, about fathers and sons, husbands and wives. Everyday life happens, and it can happen to you, or all around you, it can pass by, or sweep you up and carry you away. There is so much we can’t choose that it is easy to forget that sometimes we can.

Zach Braff managed to make a film that is so packed with story and character that it feels like it is infinite, peppered with awkward and inappropriate humor punctuated with emotionally loaded revelations, often within the same scene. I’m sure there are rules about torturing your audience to the point where tears and laughter get mixed up, but that’s life isn’t it. Braff, in his second feature film as both writer (with the help of Adam J. Braff) and director is proving himself an effective and creative filmmaker. Some are calling this film, a sequel to Garden State, which it is not. While the two share some common elements, they are in fact not directly related to each other.

The film itself features a remarkable cast, including a multitude of recognizable cameo appearances.  This I found distracting at times as I caught myself playing the I know that face game which is more suited to a Muppets movie.  That is not the only problem the film has, there are also moments that suffer from an incomplete narrative.  That is to say, there are moments where it is not clear why they are doing what they do.  It can be a minor frustration, but in this case, I think it was structured to mimic the fact that in life we frequently don’t understand why people do what they do.  Regardless, I found the effect jarring at times leaving me to mentally catch up to the film, or be left behind.  Fortunately, this is really only a minor gripe on my part, some audience members may not notice, some may be lost along the way, but if you keep up, the payout is worth it. 

Wish I Was Here tells the story of Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff), a struggling, and failing, actor and father.  When his father Saul Bloom (Mandy Patinkin) shows up to tell that his cancer has come back and he can no longer afford to pay for his grandchildren to attend Yeshiva (a private Jewish school Aidan is forced to make an uncomfortable decision.  Either he needs to send his children Grace (Joey King), and Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) to a failing public school, or as his wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) suggests, home school.  Confronted with a failed career, a wife with a miserable job, kids he doesn’t know how to teach, and a brother Noah (Josh Gad) that would rather join a comic con cosplay contest than make amends with their dying father, Aidan finds something he didn’t know he was looking for. 

Braff made a film that is agonizingly heart wrenching, projecting harsh truth through an idiosyncratic lens that allows us to laugh where we might not feel like it.  His characters feel just real enough to allow a connection, with enough caricature to be interesting.  The result is a heartfelt film that effectively tells a familiar story in an interesting way.  Wish I Was Here will not appeal to everyone, at times this melodramatic comedy can force the audience to confront reflections of themselves they may not want to. 

Wish I Was Here: 4 out of 5 It may not make you question your life, but it might help you see things just a little differently.    

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