The past two years have boasted a large number of films about a similar topic: the relationship between fathers and sons. We had the Ryan Gosling offering The Place Beyond the Pines , which spanned three generations of boys and men. There was the charming and underrated Way, Way Back with Sam Rockwell, there was my personal favorite — Jordan Vogt-Roberts' The Kings of Summer — and even the romantic indie The Spectacular Now had obvious parental themes. Women also tackled the genre: Lake Bell's In A World... showcased familial struggles between a father and his daughters, and more recently, Kat Candler's Hellion brought to light the hardships of single parenting. And now, the man who brought you one of the most beloved dramedies of the early 2000s, Garden State , is adding to the father/son discourse with his own flick: Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here.
"Father/son stories just get me, I'm a sucker for them. I have a complicated relationship with my father. I love him very much and we're now best friends but when I was growing up it was at times difficult," Braff told Bustle. "And I couldn't care less about sports, but when that father comes out of the cornfield in Field of Dreams, I need a whole box of tissues. I'm done for."
The highly anticipated kickstarter film is Braff's sophomore directorial effort, co-written by his brother Adam Braff, and focuses on a thirtysomething man (Braff) who deals with a slew of unfortunate events all at once: His wife, the sole breadwinner of their family, hates her job, his father is diagnosed with terminal cancer and he realizes his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor will likely never come to fruition.
"I wanted to write what moved me," Braff said. "My brother and I wrote something that was very personal and was what we felt about spirituality, what we felt about losing our dad, going after our dreams when we were older," he explains. "My character is clutching onto a dream that he has not had success at."
And in Los Angeles, the city where Braff and so many like him swarm to chase their dreams of creative expression, it's easy to be blinded by our biggest hopes. "I wanted to have this flawed protagonist who's so laser-focused on this dream he's holding onto that he doesn't see a) his family — the love that's around him — and b) that his dream might be accessible if he looks at it with a slightly different angle."
And in the world of Wish I Was Here, this is particularly difficult. Not only is Braff a family man without a job, he's also a thirtysomething with very limited success, and in the world of Hollywood, age is everything.
"You say to a young man: Work your ass off. Do everything and anything you can and know that every time you're sitting on your butt someone else is working hard at it," Braff explained. "It's a different conversation to a family man with kids and a wife working her butt off at a job she hates. He has to show up for his family, and he has to potentially look at his life a different way."
Braff's character struggles to support his family financially, finding himself in a position that wouldn't exist 50 years ago. "As we know, all these gender roles are switching, and often, at least in my circles, the woman is the breadwinner and the man is more and more involved in child rearing," Braff said of his own experience. "But there's still the man's inherit masculineness that feels challenged that he's not showing up, that he's not providing for his family," Braff said, referencing the inner-struggles of his male lead.
And while the story focuses on the struggles of a father, it does not abandon the issues of its mother, (played with simplicity and depth by Kate Hudson), and her own struggles.
"We have the situation where [the mother]'s miserable, she doesnt like her job, she's been supporting [the man] forever, and I think there are women out there who will relate, going, 'Look I love you, I believe you, I don't want you to give up on your dream but I need help.'"
Wish I Was Here hits theatres Thursday July 17.
Image: Worldview Entertainment