Departures

[3.5
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This Japanese movie won the 2009 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

The hero is Daigo, a professional cellist. But his orchestra is not drawing much of an audience, and closes up shop. Daigo decides to move with his wife back to his childhood home. Jobs are scarce, but he answers an ad for "Departures", which he guesses is a travel agency; instead, it turns out to be a small enterprise that travels to funerals to prepare bodies for encoffinment.

There is quite a bit of ritual involved, but Daigo is quickly impressed by the respect and compassion shown by his employer to both the deceased and the attending grievers.

This is not billed as a comedy, and it isn't; but there are some classic comedic tropes, such as Daigo's initial misunderstanding of the job. He also initially misleads his wife about the nature of the work. And one body gives them kind of a shock as they (um) find a part they didn't expect. With just a couple tweaks it could have been a dark comedy.

But it's not. And it's not everyone's cup of tea: it's kind of slow-moving, sentimental, and revolves more around character than plot. I enjoyed it, though.


Last Modified 2012-09-29 6:46 AM EDT