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

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