UK Release date: 4th December 2009
Watched on Sky+ Friday 5th July 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
There are many award-winning films out there that I have never seen; not because I don’t want to see them, more because I’m not aware of them. This is a case in point; the winner of the 2009 Oscar for best picture in a foreign language, amongst many other awards; it wasn’t even released here in the UK until December ’09 and even then it had little (or no) publicity behind it. Needless to say, it wasn’t until I happened upon it in the TV listings that I became aware of this film. I have to say I was impressed! It had more emotional depth than many western films on a similar subject. Here’s a very brief summary before I go deeper into it.
When cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) loses his job, he returns to the town where he grew up. Taking his wife, Mika (Ryôko Hirosue), with him, they go and stay in his mothers’ old house. She had passed away two years previous and had left the house to Daigo. Looking for a job, he sees an advert that looks a little cryptic; something to do with ‘Departures’; but still, he rings up and gets an interview. He is employed almost immediately without knowing an awful a lot about what his new career will entail. His new boss, Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), is quite enigmatic but soon all becomes clear. The job is to perform a ceremony for the dead; cleaning and dressing the body, applying make-up and placing them in the coffin. All this is done with great reverence with the departed’s friends and family looking on. Daigo soon learns though that this kind of work is frowned upon, but by then he has come to love what he does. How will his wife react and what will he find out about his family now he has returned home?
Beautifully shot with some great exteriors; the landscape take quite a big part in this film. There were some lovely comic moments as well as some quite distressing scenes as the families go through all kinds of emotions as the say goodbye to their loved ones. I’ll admit to having found it quite touching at times and even shed a tear or two for my dear departed mum. Of course music plays quite a big part in the film and there are some really touching scenes as Daigo plays his cello out in the fields. I did find, however, that the final act didn’t quite have the emotional punch I had expected. Yes, the emotions were there, but it didn’t quite hit home the way I anticipated. Even so, it’s a film I really enjoyed and one I would happily watch again someday.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED
My score: 8.2/10.
IMDb Score: 8.1/10 (based on 23,334 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: 68/100: (Based on 27 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 88/100 (based on 50,949 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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