"Departures," playing at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke, is easily the best movie I've seen this year. Easily.
It is a warm, funny, kind, loving story of tradition and ceremony, of grace and dignity, and of closing a book on a chapter of life with the best possible care. It is a story of loss and gain, of misunderstanding and perseverance.
Yojiro Takita's movie is the reigning Academy winner for Best Foreign Film, beating out "The Class" and "Waltz With Bashir," a couple of popular choices, and it's easy to see why this Japanese film is held in such high esteem.
This is the story of a failed cello player pushed into a job of preparing people for the undertaker, a position that is steeped in tradition, care and gentle understanding of ritual. It is also considered "unclean" by some, including our hero's wife.
The movie is peopled with first class acting from Masahiro Motoko's plodding Daigo Kobayashi, his loving but skeptical wife Mika, played by Ryoko Hirosue--a thoroughly attractive-in-every-sense young actress--and a solid group of veteran support throughout.
The humor is stacked up front of this deliberate movie, helping to develop characters to care about. We are then taken to the reality of what it is Daigo does for a living and we get a full dose of it (my wife cried through much of this and I caught myself with a lump or two, as well).
Entertaining, enlightening and a marvelous evening. See it.