Wish I Was Here – Zach Braff, 15, 2014
Netflix rates it: 4/5
I rate it: 4/5
Wish I Was Here follows out-of-work actor Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) and his wife (Kate Hudson) as they take care of his terminally ill father (Mandy Patinkin). No longer able to afford their children’s expensive private school, Braff’s character decides to give home-schooling a try, and ends up learning some things along the way himself.
Despite not teaching traditional lessons throughout the film, it is clear Braff’s character attempts to teach his kids about the world in his own way – taking field trips to the middle of the desert to talk about epiphanies, test driving high-end cars, and teaching them to swim. Not exactly educational, but much more amusing to watch!
It’s interesting to see the development of Braff’s character as the film progresses. At the beginning he is irresponsible, swearing in front of his children and even having to be taught geometry by his daughter Grace (Joey King) at the start of their home-schooling journey. However, as you see more and more of the characters, it becomes evident that responsibility is something Aidan is gaining through the process of teaching his kids.
Wish I Was Here uses props effectively, which is something not often commented on with regard to films. The swear jar, which is stuffed full of money from Aidan’s frequent cursing, is seen throughout, and as it gets emptier through using the money it seems that Aidan is becoming more responsible and a better father. It’s a perfect metaphor for the character’s personal development.
The main cast are entertaining in their roles, with many contrasting characters making the film just that little bit more fun to watch. Braff and Hudson’s characters are opposites, with Aidan being unmotivated to find work and his wife working hard and also trying to help within the family. Their two kids also have completely different personalities; Grace being studious and committed whilst Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) doesn’t care much for school or learning. There are differences between Braff’s character and his brother Noah (Josh Gad) as well, as he dreams of acting and is committed to looking after his ill father whilst Noah has no dreams or goals, and is not bothered about spending time with Patinkin’s character. In fact, overall there is a contrast between adults and children, as the children seem to know much more about what they want from life and seem more motivated than the adults. They comment on Braff’s character’s actions critically rather than the other way round, making their parent-child relationship an entertaining one to watch on screen. In particular, Joey King portrays Grace impressively, capturing her determination and commitment to her religious beliefs perfectly.
If you’re looking for a purely comedic film, this might not be the one for you, however Wish I Was Here incorporates elements of comedy into its dramatic genre well. Being the director, producer, co-writer, and main actor, Zach Braff has done a great job of creating a heartfelt, thought-provoking film with really interesting and varied characters and a pretty satisfying ending.