Zach Braff and his brother Adam Braff made a great movie.
IMDB says: "A struggling actor, father and husband finds himself at a major crossroad, which forces him to examine his life, his family and his career." That's about right, but it doesn't really do it justice.
Wish I Was Here tackles so many family dynamics in a way that feels more truthful for all of its complexity and nuance. The many different relationships, in the hands of a lesser writer, might easily bog the story down, but here the buoy and illuminate the film from within. The effect is emotional complexity portrayed with complete clarity. The writing is excellent.
The performances are excellent across the board, with a particularly impressive turn by Kate Hudson (who I'd come to think of as more of a star than a serious actor and who proves me WAY wrong; she knocks it out of the park.)
The directing is excellent and all the more impressive knowing that Zach Braff was directing a film in which he was also starring. The film feels thoughtful, emotional, heavy at times - but appropriately so - but never labored or over-wrought. I can't imagine describing the film as "effortless" given the subject-matter, but overall the film has a beautiful ease and flow to it.
If you google it, you'll see that Wish I Was Here got plenty of "meh" reviews. Rotten Tomatoes says "Critics Consensus: There's no denying Wish I Was Here is heartfelt, but it covers narrative ground that's already been well trod" but I respectfully disagree. Or rather, I agree that we've seen these elements before, but I disagree with a poor review. I think Wish I Was Here covers that ground better than most and with a fresh new alchemy born of the particular given circumstances of the characters, and the ways they come together.
The film is moody and thoughtful and funny . . . a little quirky here and there. It was self-funded on Kickstarter (raising over 3.1 million dollars) - a controversial move at the time. As someone who has made her own show with the help of crowd-funding, I have mixed feelings about projects of that scale/scope on the same platform as my 10K web series. At the same time, I highly doubt that Wish I Was Here could have been as special and specific as it is had it been processed through a movie studio. And I'm inspired to see people doing just what I'm doing but on a much grander, higher-up-the-food-chain level. Hopefully in a few years - a few projects - I'll be higher up the chain too.
Wish I Was Here is available on Netflix and VOD. Check it out and let me know what you thought in the comments.