Departures offers a fascinating insight into life and death as well as a moving drama with universal themes. The film follows the story of Daigo, formerly a cello player, who starts to work as nokanshi in his hometown. During the film’s two hours we are introduced to the work of nokanshi. This could very easily have become a movie that abounds with sentimentality but the it does not, it plays with our emotions without overt manipulation. Masahiro Motoki who plays Daigo carries the film with his humble approach and ongoing spirit. His wife played by Ryoko Hirosue reveals the fragility of their relationships and playing up to social norms.
Death, a taboo subject in many societies, including our own, is treated here with humor, respect, compassion, and wisdom. More importantly, through the morbid theme of death, you will feel the fragility and transience of life and how death in itself, is nothing frightful but a gateway to another realm. We all come to the same end. It is not often that we become privy to a film about the beautifying of corpses, director Takita takes on the grim subject matter and gives it a commercial charm and appeal. The way to approach this film is with tempered expectations, so that the film can touch you in its journey that is both surprising and pleasurable.
How the story winds down is not necessarily difficult to discern, but the manner in which the film ends is a work of great simplicity and beauty. Several deeper layers unfold as the story proceeds, including the pain that he feels because of an event in his past, the contempt he is subjected to for performing a lowly job, the dynamics of his relationship with a loving wife and the reasons for his boss’ passion for his work.
These type movies are hauntingly beautiful in each their own ways. Even though the subject matter of this film was rather gloomy, the story was a very beautiful and human one. I highly recommend this film to anyone who has expeienced a loss and is ready to celebrate their life. Rather than trying to keep the audience’s interest by packing the movie with loud dialog, action, cheap laughs, special effects and intense sounds, the director uses Depatures to pull us in with a moving soundtrack, likable characters, good acting, subtle humor, beautiful scenery, and a gripping story. I can’t say enough good things about this film, go see it.