Departures Movie Review – Cameron MacDonald

Departures (Page 1)

Genre: Foreign Films

US Box Office: $1,279,245

“Maybe death is like a gateway.”  Departures, directed by Yôjirô Takita, underdog winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, is a quietly profound, powerfully emotional piece of Japanese cinema.  The title comes from the “typo” in a classified ad (meant to have been “departed”) that lands newly unemployed concert cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) in his new career in casketing, which is exactly as it sounds:  placing the recently deceased into their coffins.  Sounds like a potentially morbid flick, but it works by providing authentic glimpses into the poetically mundane lives of the characters, and at the same time, gently pondering the existential realm of death and its place in life.

Through his new profession, initially deemed to be shameful by his endearing wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), Daigo arrives at a moving personal reconciliation over his relationship with his estranged father.  Apart from a couple of mildly gratuitous sweeping aerial shots of the protagonist sawing away on his cello on the pebbly banks of a river as decidedly counterfeit-looking salmon float by, snow-capped mountains in the background, Departures is a wonderfully sensory experience, awash in both visual and aural textures:  rustling burial robes, fluttering snowflakes in autumn and pink blossom petals in spring, steaming public baths and a crackling vinyl record collection, sizzling salted fish roe, rain on the roof of the house and of course, the rich tones of the cello.

Takita deftly juxtaposes the considerations of vocation and fate, city versus country and intimacy’s role in ceremony.  Departures leaves you with an acceptance of death as part of life, of coming back home to start again and of the beauty in the cyclical nature of our existence.


2 Responses to “Departures Movie Review – Cameron MacDonald”


    Excellent review, Cameron. I look forward to seeing this film.

  2. Mona MacDonald Says:

    I agree totally! Wonderful review!! This reviewer, Cameron MacDonald, is certainly deserving of kudos in his understanding of the intricate issues revealed in this movie-hope he continues to review movies/books in the future!!

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