The Damned United

The Damned United tells the story of Brian Clough’s days while managing the Leeds United in 1974. His tenure lasted for 44 days before he was sacked by the Leeds’ board of directors on September 12th 1974.

The cast was remarkable. Playing as Brian Clough was Michael Sheen, while Timothy Spall played as Peter Taylor, a longtime assistant to Brian Clough. Then there was Colm Meaney portraying Don Revie and also Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson, the chairman of the Derby County.

While it is said to be inaccurate in some facts, this movie is a good one to watch. I believe the performance of the cast was the main strength of this movie, particularly of Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. The story was actually a good one too, as it inserted flashbacks to weave the whole story of Brian Clough’s early rise to popularity.

It began when Don Revie was appointed as England’s manager to replace Alf Ramsey in 1974. Revie’s departure left the manager position in Leeds vacant. The board of directors then appointed Brian Clough who at the time had just accepted a job offer with the Brighton and Hove Albion along with Peter Taylor. Taylor refused Leeds’ offer and stayed with Brighton while Clough accepted the offer and thus parted ways with Taylor.

There were flashbacks towards Clough’s and Taylor’s days when they both managed the Derby County, focusing on how much they depended on each other in bringing successes to their club. Much of it also explained why Clough disliked Revie. At Leeds, Clough managed to win just one game out of six, sending Leeds to the 19th spot on the league table. It was the worst start for Leeds in 15 years.

Brian Clough later became one of the most successful England’s managers when he brought Nottingham Forest to win promotion to Division One, winning the League Cup and were champions of Division One. He and Peter Taylor also brought the Forest to win two consecutive European Cup championship. His winning streak with the Forest of 42 league games were beaten only by Arsenal with Arsene Wenger at the helm. Brian Clough died on September 20th 2004 at the age of 69. His son, Nigel Clough now managed the Derby County, a club where Brian Clough started his rise to later become one of the most successful managers in English football yet never appointed to manage England.

Final rating is 8.5, thanks to Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall who made the film, regardless of some discrepancies in it, looked great.

Directed by Tom Hooper
Written by Peter Morgan, based on David Peace’s novel The Damned Utd
Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, and Jim Broadbent
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 7.6


Departures (おくりびと (Okuribito))

Shortly after finding himself unemployed when his orchestra got disbanded, Kobayashi Daigo decided to return to his hometown at Sakata. There, he responded to a job advert which described the job as “assisting departures” only to find out later that it was to prepare the dead before the body is being placed in the coffin.

At first, Daigo struggled to adapt to his new job while also trying to hide it from his wife, Mika. As he learned more about the nature of the job and as he became more and more proficient with the skill, Daigo began to enjoy doing the job. When later Mika found out the truth about his job, Daigo must decide which one to choose: his job or his wife.

Departures is a very beautiful drama that focuses on several issues. One of them is about how people deal with the departures of their family members. Another is how some professions such as Daigo’s could have some difficulties in finding public acceptance. While initially rejecting Daigo just because of his job, Yamashita (Daigo’s childhood friend) in the end accepted him after witnessing Daigo performing the encoffinment ceremony for his deceased mother.

To me, this is a unique and yet beautifully made film with outstanding performances from the cast. Motoki Masahiro played well as Daigo. Hirosue Ryoko also successfully portrayed Mika, Daigo’s supportive wife which found herself struggling to accept Daigo’s new job. Even the supporting cast played so well such as Yamazaki Tsutomu who played as Sasaki Shōei, Daigo’s boss; Yo Kimiko as Uemura Yuriko, the employee at the NK Agency.

Scenes where the encoffinment ceremonies were performed were beautifully shot. Added with a great storyline, it is not surprising to see this movie won many honours, including the 81st Academy Awards as the best foreign language film. In Japan, the movie won the 32nd Japan Academy Prize for best film. Motoki Masahiro, Yamazaki Tsutomu, and Yo Kimiko won best actor, best supporting actor and best supporting actress categories, respectively. The director, Takita Yōjirō also won the best director award.

Overall, this is a very recommended movie. Well played, well executed, and excellent story. While it’s a 2008 film, it’s so far one of the few great films that I’ve watched this year. Final rating: 10.0.

Directed by Takita Yōjirō
Written by Koyama Kundo
Starring: Motoki Masahiro, Hirosue Ryoko, Yamazaki Tsutomu, Yo Kimiko, Yoshiyuki Kazuko, Sasano Takashi, Sugimoto Tetta.
Release year: 2008
IMDB Rating: 8.2