Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Rite Of A Family Members Departure Is Touching To Watch

Most Foreign movies that screen here in the United States usually have all won one major award or another, The latest movie to do so and get a release in the States is, "Departures" this movie won several Japanese Academy Awards. It is a touching look at the rites of passage between this world and what ever awaits us on the other side. The movie touches you for several reasons, the most glaring is the fact that most people depend on the rites being performed on their loved ones, but look down on those who do the rites is just mind blowing.

Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is a devoted cellist in an orchestra, he feels that he is just good enough to keep his job, that he goes out and buys a very expensive instrument. The owner dissolves the orchestra one night after a performance to a somewhat lackluster crowd. Now Daigo finds himself without a job. When he gets home that night he is lost, he has no idea what will happen now, his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) is an easy going woman, but Daigo fears letting her down. When he proposes that they travel back to his childhood home and live, she agrees because she loves him and cares that he feels empowered. The next morning Daigo answers a classified ad entitled Departures, thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency, only to discover that the job is actually for a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. The owner of the establishment, Ikuei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) hires Daigo on the spot and takes an interest in him. He tells him that at first things mat seem hard, but the rites are necessary in order for the deceased to move on.

At first Daigo, does not like his job, especially after having to deal with a corpse that has been left alone for several days, but little by little Daigo comes to understand the importance of his job, and the rituals that he will perform. The process of preparing the corpse is shown in detail within the context of the story, and gently the audience is drawn into it as well. The undertaker handles the corpse with the utmost reverence and care, every touch of the deceased is done with care and perfect precision. It is a tender and beautiful act that will leave the viewer in tears. There is just enough comedic touches that you won't find yourself crying through the entire movie, the way that Daigo handles himself with his friends, who are slowly finding out just what kind of job he has, will leave you smiling. When his wife finds out she tells him that she wants him to quite, he can't do this and she leaves. The whole town thinks that the person who makes a living on the dead are mean spirited people, but when their family member passes on they are the first person that they call. When Daigo is forced to handle the departure of a long time friend, he takes extra special care to handle the departure, he cares deeply for the woman and wants her passing to be peaceful. The movie does have a few twists in it, they aren't glaring but a few can be seen coming from the start. There are a few other subplots that will all be tied up at the end, bringing everything full circle.

I give Departures a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, Departures is powerfully effective in making us realize how every moment is precious and we should not take things for granted. A touching movie with a message, one that is as gentle as the art of the actions themselves. This is a great movie that will make an impact on it's viewers, not only because death comes for everyone, but the movies ending, where Daigo finds his long lost father, only after death has claimed him is one scene that will remain in your hearts for a long time. It would be all too easy for material like this to lurch into sappy sentimentality, but the film tugs at the heartstrings without overtly manipulating its audience. I couldn't recommend this movie more, go and enjoy this very touching movie, let it lift your spirits.

Departures is rated PG-13 for Thematic Material
Running time is 2 hrs. 11 mins.

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