In Wish I Was Here, the first film Garden State‘s Zach Braff has directed in 10 years, Braff plays struggling actor Aidan Bloom, whose dreams are now standing in the way of his responsibility as a husband, father, and son. His wealthy, conservative-Jewish father (Mandy Patinkin) has always bankrolled his kids’ private school, but when the older man’s cancer returns, he tells his son that he can’t foot the bill anymore. Aidan’s wife (Kate Hudson) is already doing everything she can to keep her family upright, so it falls on Aidan to homeschool his children.
“I came up with the seed of the idea, which was imagine a guy who’s like us, who’s not your traditional parent, who’s called upon to homeschool his two kids,” says Braff. “My brother [and co-writer] Adam has two kids and he’s just a really fun, amazing dad. He’s an out-of-the box-dad. So that was the inspiration for that character.”
Like Garden State, the new film is also deeply entrenched in the bonds and disconnects between fathers and sons, and it’s easy to see how personal to Braff the relationship is between Aidan and his father. “People joked that I made Garden State so I could make out with Natalie Portman,” says Braff. “I joked at Sundance I made this film so my brother and I could have intelligent, brave conversations with our father about life and death.”
Wish I Was Here is playing in limited release right now.