That’s good, because this is a film that might have been otherwise overlooked, which would be a shame. What initially appears to be a typical Japanese melodrama is much more than that due to the fine nuanced direction by Yojiro Takita.
Masahiro Motoki (who won the Best Actor award in many Japanese festivals as well as China’s Golden Rooster Awards) gives a composed and moving portrayal as Daigo Kobayashi, a skilled cellist from Tokyo who moves back to his mother’s house in a rural farming district.
Upon his return, he applies for a job posting in which the description reads “assist in departures”. He soon learns that the job is ‘casketing’, the process of preparing the body of the deceased (hence ‘departures’) before it’s placed in the coffin.
Initially ashamed of his job, he soon derives a new life, death and forgiveness from it. Along the journey is his wife, who is portrayed with sass and pep by Japanese singer Ryoko Hirosue. Although the film runs a little long at well over two hours, it’s an absorbing piece of cinema from start to finish.