One of the topics that most people don't want to talk about or face is death, their own or that of loved ones, but director Yojiro Takito has boldly made a sensitive yet entertaining film call appropriately DEPARTURES. The story involves a cellist who loses his gig in Tokyo and returns with his wife to his home in a small city. He takes a job as an assistant encoffiner and at first is repelled by his duties and the grief and sometimes ugly aspects of his job. But the more he watches his mentor, an aging encoffiner, and the gentle, respectful care he gives the families of the disceased, the more devoted he becomes to his new career. The Japanese ritual of encoffining before cremation is a highly stylized and beautiful one and it is repeated numerous times throughout the film, each time making a stronger impression on the young man, eventually his wife, and the audience. There are also themes concerning the young man's father and his desertion and the young couple's love threatened by his career choice.
DEPARTURES deservedly won the Oscar as Best Foreign Film of 2008. Its musical score is personal yet often sonorous and depends heavily on the cello, which happens to be the young man's instrument. The acting, writing, and directing are all of the highest
calibre. This is a film that entertains and moves the viewer, and in this age of nonsensical films like GI JOE and TRANSFORMERS II, it is one that deserves our attention.