Zach Braff, formerly known as the dopey lead from American comedy Scrubs, delves into much deeper, more profound territory in this comedy-drama Wish I Was Here.The film explores ideas such as how to find fulfilment in one’s life, the validity of long-standing dreams, the often complicated subtext behind family feuds, religion, the role of faith in modern westernised society and the enlightening nature of death within the family.
Despite the glossy LA setting and fairly privileged, upper middle-class lifestyle portrayed for the characters on screen, this film nonetheless deals with issues relatable to us all.
The resemblance between this film and the previous indie-drama directed by Zach Braff Garden State are evident, with the male protagonist being saved in both cases by a beautiful, strong-willed female, in this case, family-man Aidan Blooms’ wife Sarah, played by Kate Hudson. It also shadows the generally upbeat, light-hearted vibe of the film Liberal Arts (2012) directed, funnily enough by the star of American sitcom How I Met Your Mother Josh Radnor. Both films explore the trials and tribulations of their 35 year old male protagonists who struggle to adapt to an adult lifestyle and the responsibilities it entails.
Where this film succeeds is with a sharp, funny script with lots of memorable one-line zingers. At first, these come off as slightly contrived however the well-rounded and developed nature of the big-hearted main characters bring alive the script with some dazzling central performances, particularly from the daughter, played by child-actress Joey King with absolute dedication (she shaves off her hair at one point, in a Britney-style meltdown scene.)
Aidan Bloom ultimately realises that it’s the small moments in life, as opposed to the ultimate fulfilment of lofty ambitions to become an actor that give him a sense of contentment. One of the final frames shows him tenderly cradling his wife whilst watching a play with a look of pure bliss on his face. This contrasts with his earlier depiction as a weed-smoking, curse ridden ball of angst and frustration. Although at times it may strike cynical viewers as overly twee and contrived, for the more optimistic viewers it will undoubtedly be appreciated for its tender moments and personal feeling. After all, as the winter months begin to set in, don’t we all need a bit of schmaltz in our lives?
Also, any film that shows an old Orthodox rabbi attempting to hurtle down a hospital ward (and failing) on a Segway deserves a certain level of plaudits.