Zach Braff’s Jewish Roots Show In ‘Wish I Was Here’
Zach Braff’s New Movie ‘Wish I Was Here’ Inspired by Actor’s Jewish Upbringing
Actor and director Zach Braff has once again put together an introspective film, this time with a larger focus upon his personal spirituality. The film, titled Wish I Was Here, wide release July 18th, is the result of a Kickstarter campaign by Braff for his latest film with roles both in front of and behind the camera. After receiving over forty thousand donations, the film was brought to life and recently debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Stars’ Connection
Zach Braff stars as a father who has allowed his faith to slip to the wayside on his journey through middle age. Braff says that he was able to draw on his childhood experiences since he grew up in a household that was described as being very conservative. You can certainly see his character’s hesitancy to embrace a faith that he had regarded as more of a duty than a beneficial relationship. While these elements certainly permeate throughout the film, they do not have an overwhelming presence in the work.
There are several other actors and actresses on the film set that have a strong Jewish background including Kate Hudson and Josh Gad. Lawrence Sher, who is in charge of shooting, also had exposure to the Jewish faith in his childhood and is a frequent collaborator with Braff.
A More Mature Tone
Garden State had a tone of seriousness that was marginalized by the grasping attempt of a 25 year old Zach Braff trying to figure out his direction in life. Wish I Was Here takes a much more sober look at middle age, with a spiritually distant Braff being blindsided by the news that his father has been diagnosed with cancer. As a result he has to pull his children from their Jewish day school, and chooses to homeschool them out of a desire to instill in them the virtues of his faith.
Of course, the problem is that Braff’s character, Aidan Bloom, has become so distant from his faith that he bumbles through the early lessons on religion to some humorous effect. However, he realizes that, as an adult, it is time to approach his faith more seriously. Along the way he decides to reach out to his Rabbi, confronting his fears about the all-encompassing nature of religion and the possibility that it will begin to define him rather than his life’s work. Having reconciled his faith and becoming assured that he will be able to guide his sons in the right direction, Aidan and his brother are able to reconcile with their father.
Religion As A Unifier
All too often we have seen religion as the center of a conflict between characters in film. Whether it bitterly divides families on the topic of service or sexuality, it is rare to see it presented as such a beautiful way of reconciliation. In Wish I Was Here, the audience can enjoy a treatment of the Jewish faith that only Zach Braff and company can offer. He shows us that coming back into your faith is always possible if you are open to it, and that it does not always have to be solemn as long you only approach it as guidance and not a duty.