Daigo Kobayashi (by Masahiro Motoki) is a cellist in the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, but audience attendances are steadily decreasing so the orchestra is closed down. Daigo is left unemployed with a huge debt for the special expensive cello he has just bought himself. He decides to relocate with his wife Mika, (by Ryoko Hirosue) back to his hometown because his mother left him her house there when she died two years before. This is the house where he grew up and where he and his mother were abandoned by his father when he was a boy. Upon arrival in the town, he searches for work and answers an advertisement to work with “departures” – he assumes this means a travel agency. But when he is immediately offered the job, he is shocked to discover that there is a misprint in the advert and it should have read work with the “departed” – so he will be assisting the elderly boss Ikuei Sasaki (by Tsutomu Yamazaki) to prepare the bodies of the recently deceased for their casket and burial ceremony. He is very reluctant as he is aware of many taboos and difficulties likely to arise when people find out, but he takes on the job because he is desperate for work. As he anticipated, he is shunned by many people (including his wife) who don’t understand the importance and dignity of the task. This is the story of how Daigo comes to appreciate and excel in the service he is providing as he develops a huge respect for his elderly boss. The outlook for him also improves when others showly begin to see the value and beauty in the role.
This is an exquisite movie. The subject matter is a little delicate, but is treated most respectfully. There are sections of humour, but in general the rituals and ceremonies are depicted beautifully and with the utmost dignity. Masahiro Motoki is simply wonderful as Daigo – his facial expressions are well done and depict his emotions so openly. Both he and Tsutomu Yamazaki as the boss are marvellous – they are stoic but deeply sensitive and respectful. Ryoko Hirosue is cast perfectly as the delicate and sweet Mika. Music is used so well in this movie – particularly in the ritual scenes, which adds to the total beauty of the process. It is a very moving and enjoyable movie, filmed beautifully, told gently and one to be richly appreciated and enjoyed.
In 2008 it won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Foreign Film
Made 2008. Directed by Yojiro Takita