Departures (‘Okuribito’)

DRAMA; 2hr 11min (Japanese with subtitles)

STARRING: Masahiro Motoki, Ryôko Hirosue

Working it out: from left, Motoki and Takashi Sasano

Necessity can take invention to drastic lengths. For cellist Daigo (Motoki), suddenly unemployed and in debt to the not-so-sweet tune of 18 million yen, any job is better than none. When he moves with his sweet wife, Mika (Hirosue), from Tokyo to his northeastern boyhood home town and answers an ad for a position in Departures, Daigo mistakenly believes it is travel-related. And it is, in a way: the job involves preparing bodies for their coffins prior to cremation.


Although he has never seen a corpse, Daigo is hired on the spot, so undesirable is work in the casketing trade. His first experiences are iffy at best and his sickened dismay is morbidly droll, Motoki being an actor who wears his inner klutz on his sleeve.


But the multi-award-winning Departures is far more than a freaky riff on the rites of death. Under Yôjirô Takita’s patient, meditative direction, Daigo’s new life is both a coming home and a coming to terms with a long-ago loss. His is not an easy reckoning, with grief a confronting constant. But there, too, is where its beauty lies.