Desperate for a job but lacking experience, failed cello player Daigo Kobayashi responds to an ambiguous job ad. He is shocked to find out that his new role will involve dressing the dead to make them ready for their departure to the next life. Although the first few days are traumatic, he soon realises how important his job is to the community and that his new-found skills in making the deceased look beautiful in death is a huge help to those who are left behind.

Departures (2008) – Director: Yôjirô Takita

Is This Movie Suitable review Departures

Rating: 12

Running Length: 130 mins

Starring: Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ryôko Hirosue

Genre:  Drama

 

REVIEW

This beautiful drama by Yôjirô Takita has deservedly won several awards, including the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. With Joe Hisaishi’s haunting score and its strong cast, this is a movie full of warmth and poignancy as it explores potentially dark themes such as death and Japanese society’s issues surrounding the end of life. It is unusual to watch a movie which focuses so heavily on death from Japan where the subjects involved are particularly taboo, but it is dealt with so delicately that it feels more respectful than wrong. Takita takes his time to introduce the relatable and believable characters (along with their weaknesses) which means that as the movie progresses the audience is fully vested in this quiet and understated masterpiece.

After overcoming a difficult childhood, Daigo is happily married to the loving and devoted Mika, but we join his story as he loses his dream job of playing the cello for a Tokyo orchestra that is dissolved without warning. With no other way of supporting themselves, they decide to move back to Daigo’s hometown. The lead performances from this couple are superb. Mika buries her concerns over her husband behind a dutiful gloss that only occasionally cracks, and Daigo is desperate to keep information from his wife that might upset her. He accidentally takes a job at a ‘funeral’ service (mistaking it for a travel agency!) but after his initial distaste at the job, it is fascinating to watch him slowly accumulate respect for this ancient taboo tradition.

The movie introduces us to several grieving families, the deceased being of varying ages, genders and lifestyles. The families themselves deal with their grief in different ways; some are obviously simply devastated by loss while others remember their loved ones in a more fun and humorous way. This refusal to assume that death is the same for everyone adds a richness and necessary realism to a movie which could easily become an exercise in making the audience cry. Having said that, this is not a movie for the faint-hearted! The acting from the entire cast (from major to minor characters) is superb and it is unlikely that there will be a dry eye in the house by the time the end credits roll! This is very much a movie to enjoy, but do keep the tissues handy!

IS ‘DEPARTURES’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

This is somewhat of an unusual movie for us at Is This Movie Suitable to review as it isn’t really a children’s movie. However, we are dedicated to reviewing as many PG and 12 certificate movies as possible as you may find yourself in a position of wanting to watch such a movie while a child is present. Therefore we would like to highlight the following points.

This movie deals with death in various forms, including suicide. Many children struggle with the concept of death and this movie may therefore be too much for them to handle, particularly if a close family member or beloved pet has recently died. Many scenes are framed with slow direction and subtle emotional music to underpin the numbness of such occasions. On one of his first days, Daigo has to help deal with the body of a woman who was undiscovered for two weeks. Although you see nothing of the corpse (apart from covered feet), it is made clear that it is quite a gruesome sight. The grotesque smell is mentioned and there is rotting food in the room which is covered in flies and maggots. Daigo struggles to keep his composure but is unable to control his reactions and is soon retching at the scene before him.

There is a scene in a bath house where Daigo goes to cleanse himself after his terrible ordeal. There is some nudity here but it is not explicit and rather brief. When he gets home, he is suddenly reminded of his day and is sick in the sink. His wife goes to him and he clings to her. He starts to touch her sexually by running his hands over her midriff and pulling at her clothes. He lowers her jeans a little to reveal her underwear, but he then just holds himself against the bare skin of her stomach. The scene ends at this point but it is implied that they may have made love after this.

Daigo struggles to deal with the fact that his father left him (at the young age of 6) and his mother for a waitress. He hates his absent father vehemently and is unable to understand how anyone could abandon such a young child. This could be quite upsetting for any child who comes from a single parent family as it is a major theme and is mentioned several times throughout the movie.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

While the idea of a slow foreign language drama could be off-putting for some, this is a real gem to be enjoyed by adults and children alike. While the movie is not specifically aimed at children, those who are mature enough to understand and cope with the themes of the movie are likely to welcome this heartfelt story of love and loss.

‘Departures’ takes you on an unhurried and touching journey which will keep adults and older children gripped but could be boring (and possibly upsetting) for younger children who do not fully understand the messages of the movie. This is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and it is very difficult not to get caught up in its beautiful and creative story.

  • Violence:  0/5 (while there is no violence, there is one moment where Daigo is accidentally cut on the cheek with a razor, there is some blood but this should not be disturbing for children)
  • Emotional Distress: 5/5 (there are several deaths where the grief of the families is evident. There is also the distress Daigo feels from his father abandoning him when he was a young boy. The accompanying score increases the emotional impact of these themes)
  • Fear Factor: 0/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5
  • Bad Language:  0/5
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (death is the overriding theme of this movie and suicide is mentioned a few times. There is also a humorous moment where the dressing of the ‘body’ (played on a DVD by Daigo) is described. It explains the importance of cleaning the anus of the corpse before it is put in the casket)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of death, parental abandonment, love and bereavement.

Words by Laura Record

Departures [DVD] [2008]


New From: £4.72 GBP In Stock

Related Posts

Share this review!Share on Facebook1Share on Google+0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Tumblr0Pin on Pinterest0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Digg thisEmail this to someone