Oscar Season Takes Hold

I am so ready for the Oscars. I mean, being ill for most of the BAFTAs wasn’t really what I wanted, so I’m taking full advantage of Oscar season. The show is recorded, the popcorn is bought, and my planner is filling up with all kinds of Oscar films: Pulp Fiction2001: A Space Odyssey, The Exorcist… I’ve got a fun week ahead.

But how about the lesser known Oscar-winners? Those shadowed by the greats? This is one of them. Winning the Academy Award for Best Film in a Foreign Language, alongside winners like Slumdog MillionaireThe Dark Knight, and WALL-E, may I introduce to you the Japanese whimsical drama Departures.


Daigo, a talented cello player, moves to his home-town with his wife Mika after the orchestra he plays in is wrapped up. Quitting the music business, he finds an advert working with “departures”. It turns out that the job is working with the “departed”, due to a typo (a fairly convenient translation). We now watch his adventures in his new job of encoffinment: putting bodies into coffins.

I’m guessing that your reaction to that synopsis is: “Wow, this must be a really depressing film.” Well guess what, my animate friends, the film turns out to be a heart-warming, dare I say comedic, movie that I would say is fun for all the family (okay, maybe not all the family).

I mean, the film does have its sad moments. Daigo’s father ran away, and his job makes him disliked by most, but I think the writers must have realised that to make sure this film didn’t slip into a dark, depressing drag, so the inclusion of comedy really does help. Plus, the humour translates well to English, which is great!

And moving to the heart-warming parts, the ceremony of encoffinment itself features a lot in this film. You get accustomed to how it works early on, and the different ceremonies with different characters in attendance adds some variety. It is beautiful how it is shown, and the inclusion of Daigo expertly accompanying a montage of them might be seen as unrealistic, but it was a fantastic moment in the movie.

And now for a big problem: predictability. Around a quarter into the movie, you will know how the whole thing will play out. You will know that Daigo and Mika will clash over the job and people who will die and the past being brought up again. I personally have no problem with it being predictable, but just be prepared those who are more sensitive to predictable films.


Departures, while predictable, contains realistic characters and a balance of comedy and tear-jerkers. In short, it is worthy of its Oscar. Wear it proud!


Departure Quote