Wish I Was Here

In this family affair—both in subject and moviemaking— Zach Braff directs and stars while co-writing and co-producing with his brother Adam. Together they’ve created a gently comic, small, oddball drama that, like Braff’s Garden State, often feels lightweight and silly but somehow manages to deal profoundly with the biggest questions and challenges of people’s lives in a resonating and moving manner. The family is that of Aidan Bloom, an immature, 35-year-old, out-of-work L.A. actor trying to live his passionate dream while holding his family together. The crisis comes to a head when he must remove his two children from their school because Aidan’s unforgivingly judgmental, sarcastically (and funnily) scathing father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin)—who was staking the kids’ education so long as it was in a Yeshiva school—needs the money for experimental cancer treatment, forcing Aidan to half-assedly home-teach his kids.

The bright, airy 2.40:1 picture is softly focused and lit, but there’s enough detail to read writing on tin cans and background chalkboard marks, while there’s texture to textiles, desert rocks, and Gabe’s salt-and-pepper beard. T-shirts, yarmulkes, and rabbis’ robes are a deep black, shawls are a bright white, and there are rich colors in Aidan’s Comic Con-loving brother’s trailer and co-attendees’ outfits.

From the opening second, surrounds are engaged with atmospherics of woods and music, and it’s pretty much like that from then on—indie rock and crickets. Instruments are well separated into all the channels, but the music comes together nicely, floating somewhere in the middle of the room. Dialogue stays clear in the center channel. The only panned effect is when a fantasized flying robot shoots from the screen diagonally by your head, and it’s fairly accurately placed. Bass effects are also minimal.

There are two commentaries, one between Zach and his brother, the director, and his cinematographer and editor. The first tells of their production experiences with plentiful low-budget-inspired shout-outs. It’s uninformative and surprisingly unfunny. The second commentary is much more interesting, talking us technically through the film with each member drawing the other two out through their curiosity about a scene. A featurette shows Braff directing while simultaneously acting, which is achieved by everyone improvising while he yea or nays and “more”s or “less”s.

Studio: Universal, 2014
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 106 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Joey King