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:: Departures (Okuribito)

When ‘Departures’ was awarded the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film it was one of the few times when the Academy has actually made the right choice. There is no possible way you can fault this beautiful. It’s long but you become so wrapped up in the story that you don’t even seem to notice that. I never thought I would ever use this term in a review but ‘Departures’ goes very close to being the ‘perfect film’.

The film tells the story of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) a young cellist who finds himself unemployed when the orchestra he plays for is dissolved. Desperate for a new start Diego convinces his wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) to move back to his hometown so he can look for work and to start over. She agrees and while Daigo is looking for work he comes across an advertisement for a job that says they are looking for someone to work with ‘departures’. Believing it is with a travel agency, Daigo turns up only to learn that the job is learning the skills ‘Nokanshi’ (preparing a body for burial) from the company owner, Ikuei Sasaki. Ikuei offers Daigo the job and he takes it, much to the annoyance of his wife and his friends. While they are critical Daigo learns to take great pride in his work.

To be blunt I found ‘Departures’ to be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen… it really is a film that the Japanese film community should be proud. Director, Yojiro Takita has produced any absolute masterpiece. The cinematography is simply out of this world and each frame looks like it has been lifted from a famous painting. Each shot looks as if it belongs on a gallery wall. Takita has done an exceptional job bringing Kundo Koyama’s screenplay to life, while the screenplay itself its outstanding. The story seems so simple to tell yet the script meanders its way beautifully through the story and the characters are so original and captivating that you can’t help but care for them. As an audience you are taken on a rollercoaster of emotions. One moment you will find yourself laughing at a joyous occasion the next you will be crying over a truly dramatic storyline.

Making ‘Departures’ an even better film is the wonderful acting performance of Masahiro Motoki in the lead role. Seriously the guy was robbed at the Oscars, he should have bagged the Best Actor Oscar easily. His performance is so natural that your eyes don’t leave him, he could teach a lot of the Hollywood-wannabes a lot about their craft… let’s hope they take notice.

It is impossible to fault ‘Departures’. It is simply one of the best films ever made. Beautiful to watch and heart-felt to experience. There needs to be more films like this in the world.