Wish I Was Here Movie Poster Image

Wish I Was Here

Messy but moving dramedy has mature themes.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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).


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


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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 18, 2014
DVD/Streaming release date:October 28, 2014
Cast:Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King
Director:Zach Braff
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some sexual content

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Great handpicked alternatives

  • Garden State Movie Poster Image
    Smart drama for mature older teens and up.
  • Philomena Movie Poster Image
    Smart, wrenching, deeply moving drama fine for older teens.
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    Glossy, funny, and packs a real emotional wallop.

What parents and kids say

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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
What other families should know
Too much swearing
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 a way, that matches my reaction to the movie. There are some funny bits, but it gets so damn schmaltzy that it becomes self-indulgent, and I didn't really feel that different when it all ended. The humor mostly stems from the actors: Zach Braff here seems to be far better than writing and directing, but the little girl that has the Hit Girl wig was great. The first 30 to 40 minutes are good, but once the movie starts to hammer down its message, it becomes so excessive, and kind of contrived in the process. The earlier parts are just of the family interacting, and that's far more affecting than things like characters getting cancer or reciting poetry over montages. The first act is funny, but it does feel like "First World Problems: The Movie" given how distraught Braff's character is because they have to send their adorable quirky Jewish children to public school, and that he can't quite become a successful actor. The pacing is kind of off; the movie is two hours (while it should be around 90 minutes) and the final 35 minutes drag, but the ending is so abrupt that I thought that the projector skipped or something. The movie isn't that great and probably not even able to achieve the title of "good," but you can tell that it's sincere and isn't cynical at all. It means well and some parts are good, but it just gets too caught up in itself, eventually falling victim to what most writer/director/actor projects, which is getting too self-absorbed. 6.1/10, okay, one thumb down, average, etc.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 (literally, only two or three) there are several uses of the F word, which children participate in. A man smokes a joint. And then a man is shown from behind masturbating with his pants down to show his butt to the camera. His is caught by another man and a short conversation about his activity follows. That's when I turned the TV off. This is not a movie you want to view with your family, believe me. It is very upsetting. This movie's content review needs to be updated immediately.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing