Wish I Was Here (2014)

wishiwashere

Life is full of moments and trials that test who we are as people and how we handle different crisis’s. We all have our passions in life, but too often we choose the easiest, or safest route to making a living and providing for ourselves and loved ones. We are quick to bury our passions and focus on making others happy with what we do, forgetting that sometimes we need to be happy ourselves. It’s also tricky when you try to pursue your passions and things just don’t work out. You should never give up on what, or who you love, but you need to be adaptable and handle any situation to the best of your ability.

Aidan visits his father at the hospital.
Aidan visits his father at the hospital.

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is struggling with many aspects in his life. He wants to make it in the acting industry, as he is most passionate about performance, but he’s not having any luck. His wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) makes all the money for the family, but she’s not entirely satisfied with what she does. Aidan’s son Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) hates Yeshiva, but his daughter Grace (Joey King) has found her place because of it and that only increases the conflict between them. On top of all of that, Aidan’s father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin) is dying and can no longer pay for the kid’s school, only putting more weight on Adian’s shoulders to get a job and step up in this time of crisis.

From that point on, life is all the more difficult for Aidan and his family. While his wife has always supported his passions, his father has never considered it a real job and thinks that Aidan is failing as a father, just as he failed to be a great father to Aidan. His kids don’t want to attend public school and they’re always wild, which makes homeschooling a tricky option. His brother Noah (Josh Gadd) couldn’t be less helpful, due to bad relations with their father. With all this bad in his life, however, Aidan tries to maintain his love for his family and wants to show it in any way he can, while also trying to figure out what to do with himself. He doesn’t have all the answers and he can’t do it alone, but maybe he doesn’t have to. It’s certainly going to be a rough journey, but it’s the journey that counts and it’s about who you journey with too.

Aidan impatiently waits at yet another audition.
Aidan impatiently waits at yet another audition.

Wish I Was Here is truly a work of passion and determination, as writer/director/actor Zach Braff funded this project through Kickstarter. He could have made the movie the “normal” way, but his vision would have been tainted by those backing his work, in order to make it to their liking. Instead, Braff put his film in the hands of strangers and his supporters, in order to tell HIS story. Some have criticized him for this, but I respect what he did and I’m glad I got to see his version of this film, because I absolutely adored it. Braff has a knack for human understanding and his film really spoke to me on a lot of different levels.

As mentioned, Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in this film. His writing reflects the concerns and the hardships that people all go through and the subject of doing what you’re passionate about really takes hold  in this film. Braff’s Adian is certainly an imperfect man, burdened by his inability to find a job he really enjoys, while also balancing a dying father and kids who need their father more than ever. Not to mention, a wife who just wishes that he was there (all together). As a director, Braff’s lens focuses quite a bit on how the characters react and on those little things in our lives that either make a big difference, or even cause us confusion. As an actor, Braff is a magnetic presence that is a joy to watch, despite his character’s ups and downs. We don’t live in a perfect world and we don’t always get what we want, but Braff makes us hopeful, as he shows us that we can find joy in other ways.

Aidan and Sarah talk about their lives and the future.
Aidan and Sarah talk about their lives and the future.

I haven’t seen Kate Hudson act this well in years and her character is the one who makes the money for the family and has to be the responsible one. She loves and supports her husband, but she’s at a breaking point and she can’t do it alone. Her emotional complexity and powerful presence really stood out, especially when she and Mandy Patinkin have moments alone. Patinkin is also quite good as the tough loving father with old habits. Josh Gad showed us a far more “dark” side to himself, justified with vulnerability in his character. For me, Joey King really worked wonder in what’s now my favorite performance of hers. She is just young enough to not fully understand the world, but she’s just old enough to start thinking on her own and doing what she feels is best for herself. She easily has the sweetest and one of the most emotional scenes in the film that still

While I’m not sure that everyone will react the same to this film, I do believe that most people can find a bit of themselves and their families in this film. Everyone struggles all the time in their lives and it’s certainly how we deal with that struggle that comes to define us. Acting is something I want to do in my life and it’s clearly something Braff loves, but there are always the naysayers who don’t call it real work. Everyone has family members that work hard, but maybe aren’t completely satisfied with what they’re doing. Everyone wants to spend more time with the people they love while they can, but getting caught up in life makes that difficult sometimes. Our parents are different than we are, and we can only imagine how different their parents are. Braff does an excellent job with the issues of family and doesn’t sugarcoat how rude and insensitive they can be sometimes, while also believing that they’re being honest. Braff reminds us that we can’t let the bad outweigh all the good and that we can’t always hold grudges, because that’s when we start to miss out on life.

Aidan spends quality time with his children.
Aidan spends quality time with his children.

Personally, I found a lot of my own family and friends within this film, as well as a lot that I haven’t yet experienced that still managed to connect with me. These characters are certainly people you know and their journeys couldn’t be any more realistic. As a father, Braff doesn’t want his kids to go through what he did and wants to make sure he has a great and happy impact on their lives. Sure, his father wasn’t always the best to him, but he doesn’t always blame him for it. He just wants to make sure that his family is happy and that he can enjoy life with them, no matter how hard things seem. This film doesn’t shy away from language and the “hidden” truths of people’s odd lives, which only made me enjoy this film more. The characters felt real because they were realistically reacting to life as it came to them. Wish I Was Here is a film full of irony and imperfection, just as life is full of both.

Wish I Was Here resonates deeply on so many levels and manages to be a surprise hit (at least for me) of the Summer. Zach Braff is such an interesting guy and this film seems like a very personal piece for him. It’s pretty great all around, but it does suffer a bit from being overly melodramatic at times and offering up a few too many inspirational quotes. It’ was if he was trying too hard at times to get across that things can be really awful, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Still, I can’t deny that most of those moments either had my emotions welling up, or wrung true in certain aspects of my life. Fun cameos and a wonderful soundtrack only helped me enjoy this lovely film even more.

Wish I Was Here Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCponfeWNOI

4 STARS!!!

4 / 5 stars     

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