This is the story of two young Japanese brothers who live apart following the break-up of their parents' relationship. The older boy dreams of his family reuniting and prays for a miraculous intervention in the form of a volcanic eruption, hoping this might lead to his evacuation from his grandparents' region and a return home. Then, when he discovers that the passing of the speeding Bullet trains, approaching from opposite directions, creates a 'cosmic' moment during which wishes are granted, he sets out with a few friends to meet his brother at the meeting point on the railway line. There they make their wishes - with varying results.
The two brothers are forced to deal with the consequences of their parents' choices, ones they have had no part in making. Their belief, to varying degrees, in the power of 'faith' (believing that wishes can come true) then leads them to have to face the consequences of their own choices. Given their youthful immaturity, there is real poignancy in witnessing their confrontation with some harsh realities.
The movie features brilliant performances from the young actors and an excellent supporting cast of adults. There is also gorgeous and evocative cinematography, scenes of the Japanese countryside and its urban impositions, not least the Bullet line itself elevated on its concrete trackbed.
It takes some time, too long perhaps, for the story to gain momentum. But once the youngsters embark on their journey to meet the trains, the story moves at a brisker, more engaging pace. The climax (yes there is a climax, contrary to the view of another reviewer) brings moments of intense beauty and sharp sadness, regret for the loss of childish innocence of as well as optimism in the hope for a better future.
So this is a slow-burner, but persistence brings rewards. Recommended.
(Viewed at The Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK 21.02.13)