Dir: Zach Braff
Aidann Bloom (Zach Braff) and his wife Sarah are facing one of life’s great challenges: Aidann’s dad, Gabe (Mandy Patinkinn) is dying. If that wasn’t enough, Gabe’s health means that Aidann needs to start homeschooling their children. But what does he know? Not much as most of the kids’ questions, inspired by their grandfather’s plight, are about faith, belief and other big life questions. Wish I was Here traces Aidann and Sarah’s quest to determine their beliefs amidst acting auditions, office politics, estranged relatives and messy lives.
Zach Braff travels a path he’s worn before with his well-known directing debut Garden State back in 2004. But this time, the slightly depressed 30-something adds an extra layer: the faith angle. The idea of parents being confronted by their own hazy beliefs through the questions of their children is a nice one rarely dealt with on the screen. It feels a little like a Douglas Coupland novel and that’s no bad thing. That the grandfather’s Jewish faith is a resource drawn on by the family is nice, too.
Braff manages to draw good performances from the cast though Josh Gadd as the brother feels a little under-used. Mandy Patinkin is a standout as the gruff patriarch with much still to learn in his last days. Cameos from Braff’s Scrubs colleague, Donald Faison, Jim (Big Bang Theory) Parsons and Ashley (Twilight) Greene round things off.
With a well chosen soundtrack and creative use of a small budget, Braff has created something more than the sum of its parts. Wish I Was Here is a thought provoking little film about some of life’s big ideas.