Wish I Was Here

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Wish I Was Here Movie Poster Image
Messy but moving dramedy has mature themes.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Forgiveness doesn't just benefit the person you forgive, but also the forgiver. Also, the ties that bind families may constrict, but they also embrace if you let them.

Positive role models & representations

Aidan may curse in front of his kids and doesn't always respond to his wife's needs, but he loves his family fiercely, including his critical father, with whom he doesn't always get along. Sarah is the epitome of a supportive spouse, able to express her needs and ask for them to be met while still showing enormous affection and respect for her husband's needs. They're caring parents, even if they don't always know what to do.

Violence

A man sexually harasses a coworker with inappropriate conversations and doesn't stop when asked. He also punches another man in a supermarket. Family members argue, sometimes loudly.

Sex

A tender scene between a married couple shows them making out in the laundry room and later lounging in bed, shoulders bared. Another couple, dressed in ComicCon costumes, is shown in a sexual position (no body parts visible).

Language

Pretty colorful, with both adults and kids dropping "f--k" in their conversations (sometimes with each other). Also: "damn," "a--hole," and more.

Consumerism

Everyone seems to have an iPhone or an Apple computer. An Aston Martin makes a prominent appearance, and Aidan drives a Ford minivan, with the logo clearly visible many times. Other brands name-dropped or seen include Jeep and ComicCon.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

A man finds the remainders of a marijuana joint in his car and tries to smoke it, even though he's in his children's school parking lot. Some social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wish I Was Here is an affecting (if uneven) dramedy about adults finally acting like adults when faced with illness and adversity. There are plenty of humorous bits, but the themes are heavy: mortality, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, forgiveness -- which makes it too intense for tweens and younger teens. The parents here are definitely far from perfect. They swear in front of their kids (including "f--k"), and they don't always know what to do. One man smokes weed in his child's school parking lot. There's also some kissing/implied sex, but no nudity. Expect lots of brands on display, particularly Apple products.

User Reviews

Parent of a 16 year old Written byterrid1 August 3, 2014

just not good

From the first minute they use the f word constantly. Just not a good movie. Save ur money
Adult Written bymarjoriekl August 4, 2015

I did not finish this movie

To start my review, let me be clear that I did not get through more than one-half hour of this film. I was appalled. Within the first couple of minutes (literal...
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah September 5, 2014

Sometimes cute and sometimes obnoxious.

Confession time: I've never seen Garden State, but maybe that helps me be more objective here. Anyways, I didn't really have any expectations, and in...
Kid, 8 years old May 14, 2015

Lackluster, mature drama has lots of drugs, language, alcohol.

My rating:R for racy material, mature content, language throughout, and alcohol and drug use.

What's the story?

Aidan (Zach Braff) is a thirtysomething actor still waiting for his big break. A father of two, he shuttles between auditions for small parts that barely pay the bills while his wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), works at the water department, enduring a colleague who doesn't know how to have appropriate conversations. Because the public schools in their area aren't very good, their kids are enrolled in yeshiva (even if Aidan and Sarah aren't particularly religious), for which Aidan's father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), is paying. It was his one rule: He gets to choose if he pays. But when Gabe's cancer comes back, necessitating last-ditch treatments that he has to pay for out-of-pocket, Gabe can't foot the bill anymore. Aidan and Sarah can't afford school, so they pull the kids out, much to their dismay, especially their daughter's; the plan is for Aidan to homeschool them as he helps Gabe through his treatments. Meanwhile, Gabe longs to see Aidan's younger brother, Noah (Josh Gad), a blogger who hasn't forgiven his dad for his dysfunctional fathering. Aidan valiantly tries to keep it together, but it's barely working.

Is it any good?

Braff clearly knows how to tell a story. He's written and directed just two feature films, Garden State and the Kickstarter-funded WISH I WAS HERE, but already you see the imprint of a would-be auteur: quirky characters, pathos rubbing shoulders with humor, and a deep and abiding love for music, which often underscores -- or should we say overemphasizes -- his films' emotional beats. Wish I Was Here is unafraid of complexity, tackling religion, identity, and the tricky balancing act of being both an adult child, bearing wounds from an unsatisfactory childhood, and also a parent buckling under weight of responsibility and overarching love for your kids.

Those are all fine subjects to tackle in a movie. But perhaps they would be better served if the film unwound its tales more sparingly, without the unnecessary conflict; extraneous, irreverent dialogue; and a pushy, if apt, soundtrack. There's one particular scene toward the end, when Gabe's health fades, that speaks to Braff's ability to get at the emotional truth between a father and a son. It stands out as being straightforward and therefore more effective than so many other sections. We wish that Wish I Was Here hewed more to that aesthetic.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Aidan's relationship with his father. How does the film characterize it? How does it shape his own way of parenting?

  • What's Wish I Was Here's take on Aidan's and Sarah's marriage? Are they both happy? Are they intended to be role models?

  • Religion is a major subject in this film. How does the movie handle the topic, and how is it similar to, or different from, other films that explore spirituality?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat movies

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate