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Departures 12 rating

A professional cellist gets a new job as an assistant mortician in this delightful and bittersweet drama, winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® in 2009.

Drama 2008 131 mins

Director: Yôjirô Takita


When professional cello player Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) is left jobless after the orchestra he plays in disbands, he and his wife Mika (Ryôko Hirosue) move back from Tokyo to the family home in rural Yamagata left by his mother, who passed away two years previously. Here he stumbles upon a vaguely-worded advert in a local newspaper for a job “assisting departures.” He turns up at the interview and is hired on the spot by his new boss Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), only to discover the post is for an assistant nôkanshi, or traditional mortician, performing the Buddhist rites of washing and preparing corpses for their final journey. Initially he keeps the nature of his employment hidden from Mika, but as his disgust for his work turns to pride, he soon finds himself coming to terms with his own life, and the past memories of the father who abandoned him as a child.

This life-affirming drama from director Takita Yôjirô (When the Last Sword is Drawn) is beautifully complemented by a majestic score from Hisaishi Jô, known for his work with Kitano Takeshi and Studio Ghibli, and featuring an affecting central performance from Motoki Masahiro (Gonin, The Bird People in China), Departures is a bittersweet portrait of one man’s reconnection with the landscapes and life forces of home. One of the most critically lauded Japanese films of recent years Departures was awarded the Best Foreign Language film Oscar® in 2009, 10 major awards at the Japanese Academy and a host of other international prizes.