Directed by Zach Braff and co-written with his brother Adam, “Wish I Was Here” finally arrives as Braff’s sophomore feature film as director since his successful “Garden State” ten years ago. Once again setting the tone with a fantastic soundtrack, Braff explores feelings, especially during challenging life events, and highlights the strong performances of his terrific cast.
When his father’s (Mandy Patinkin) cancer returns, reactionary events force Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) to reevaluate his priorities and restructure his life. Relying on Sarah (Kate Hudson) to provide for their family, though she’s uncomfortable with a co-worker’s inappropriate conversation, and dealing with his father’s criticism, Aidan reluctantly must take time away from his acting auditions to home school his teenage daughter, Grace (Joey King), and mildly rambunctious son, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon, the young boy from “Looper”), because Aidan’s father can no longer afford to pay for their private schooling. Aidan tries to keep his family together as they struggle; Sarah is harassed at work, Grace believes God is testing her faith, Tucker is bored, Aidan’s brother, Noah (Josh Gad), deals with feelings of disappointment from his father, and Aidan wonders about his own role as his passion for acting goes unrewarded.
As in real life, each character faces individual conflict. Aiding a mostly simple, straightforward script, the cast’s incredible aptitude for emotion gives authenticity to their characters. Josh Gad and Joey King prove their dramatic chops while Mandy Patinkin and Kate Hudson return to superb theatrical performances. Though critical reviews are mixed on “Wish I Was Here,” praise for the acting talents could garner minimal award attention.
“Wish I Was Here” offers a deeper viewing for summer enjoyment. A spiritual film for even the least spiritual people, it openly accepts that no one knows what is out there, that religion helps some people, and that life can be whatever you believe in. Aidan’s sci-fi fantasy is unnecessary and a little off, but it doesn’t go too far to be off-putting. Mostly appropriate for preteens to adults, though there are a few scenes where actresses are clearly braless and a brief masturbation scene that inspired giggles from young men in the auditorium. Not as playful as Braff’s “Garden State,” “Wish I Was Here” has a more mature premise surrounding a husband and father but is a suitable second feature for the indie director.
Rating for “Wish I Was Here:” A-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Wish I Was Here” is playing at over half a dozen theatres in Columbus, including Gateway and AMC Dublin. For showtimes, click here.