Departures

Director: Yôjirô Takita
Year Released: 2008
Rating: 2.5

An out-of-work cellist (Masahiro Motoki) - with a wife (Ryôko Hirosue) to support - takes a job (from a misleading newspaper ad) to work as an apprentice to stern Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) as Japanese ceremonial mortician who washes and tends to the dead (in front of the deceased's family). Leans heavily on cheap sentimentality - Motoki finally treating his father's corpse to end the movie is simply Too Much - and I'm not entirely confident Takita manages to make a strong enough tie between being a failed artist and 'encoffining' professional (plus, is it really that hard to become a musician in Japan ... he doesn't even try to find another gig) or convince anyone why Hirosue would return to her husband so easily (except as a plot mechanism) considering the taboo nature of his job and her initial revulsion. There are moments of beauty in this, however, and I was personally drawn to the paternal Sasaki character, who acts as a surrogate father to Motoki and lends the socially-undesirable career a quiet dignity.