Departures (2008)

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Director: Takita Yôjirô
Cast: Motoki Masahiro, Hirosue Ryoko, Yamazaki Tsutomu


A cellist is made redundant and returns to his home town in the mountains, where he accepts a job as a funerary assistant. Despite the hostility of some to the profession, including his wife, he becomes an accomplished practitioner in the very Japanese art of preparing the corpse, but also the onlookers, for the last goodbye.

The Review

Sentimental but ultimately persuasive film about an anything but glamorous subject. The film makers do not shy aware from the repellent detail at times, but the treatment is characterised by tact, warmth and a certain elegance in the ritualized gestures of the preparation ceremony. One montage interspersing shots of the hero playing his cello on top of a dyke with a series of ceremonies is perhaps both an artistic misjudgement and a misleading one, since it gives the mistaken impression that a long period of time has passed. However, as we pass through the seasons towards the inevitable personal rendez-vous with death, there are many felicitous moments of acting and oddity worthy of the best of Japanese cinema.