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Departures review

Working for an undertaker becomes oddly satisfying for a young cellist...

Winner of this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, Departures offers a gentle, unashamedly sentimental take on death and reconciliation.

When his orchestra is dissolved, young classical cellist Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), moves back to his northern home town and – to his initial horror – winds up working with the local undertaker.

His wife’s repelled and he’s warned he’s lost his social standing. Yet Daigo finds unexpected satisfaction in his work, and in the comfort it affords bereaved families.

Veteran director Yôjirô Takita secures top-notch performances from all his cast, especially Motoki (who looks a bit like a Japanese Lee Evans) and Tsutomu Yamazaki as his philosophical boss.

There are one too many sweeping shots of Motoki playing his cello in rural settings for our liking, though moments of humour aren’t overplayed.

And if you’re squeamish, don’t fret – as presented, the ceremony of ‘casketing’ (corpsepreparation) is tactful and strangely moving.

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