Toshiaki Nakazawa, Toshihisa Watai
Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ryoko Hirosue, Kimiko Yo
Academy Award ® Winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Departures is an emotional, inspiring and often amusing story that has all the ingredients of the next ’Life is Beautiful’.
Daigo Kobayashi is a cellist whose dream is shattered when his Tokyo orchestra suddenly closes down. Left with no choice but to sell his prized cello, Daigo returns with his wife Mika to his late mother’s house, deep in the Japanese countryside.
In need of money, Daigo responds to an ad in the paper for a job in ’Departures’, mistakenly thinking that it might be somehow related to travel. But to his complete surprise Daigo finds he has applied for a position as an ’encoffineer’ - a man who performs the delicate and traditional Japanese ritual of preparing the bodies of the recently deceased for their departure to the next life - and without having time to think about it, he accepts the job.
And so begins the transformation. Initially happy to be earning again, Daigo is extremely unsure about what the job entails. His natural fear of the dead soon gives way to the wonder at the beauty of the ritual and the extraordinary care and meaning that this performance gives to the grieving. Diago soon realises that his role is something much more than it seems. It’s as if he really is the guardian of the departed and that somehow he can give peace to those left behind – and that he can do it really well.
Mika, however, is less than impressed. Ashamed by her husband’s new job - she returns to Tokyo alone, leaving her husband with little company save that of his eccentric, though serene boss Sasaki.
As winter turns into Spring, Daigo becomes a master of his new craft. And when Mika returns to him now pregnant with his child, Daigo’s world is again turned upside down when he hears of the death of his long-lost errant father.
Taking control over his father’s funeral, Daigo works his gentle magic and reconciles the tainted memories of his childhood, as he re-discovers the man he barely knew.
Departures is a beautiful and unusual love story that surprises you with bursts of humour, that moves you with its detail and its humanity – whilst at the same time giving an extraordinary insight into a complex and unique culture. It’s a film that will make you laugh and cry - but above all, leaves you with one overriding feeling… joy.