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Funerals are usually less representative of the departed individual than the culture and religion they were born into. Through a fictionalised story of Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), this Oscar winning film gives us access into the Japanese ritual of encoffination. The ceremonial cleaning, dressing and restoring of the deceased to eternal beauty is a surprisingly calming and cathartic experience.

When cellist Daigo’s orchestra is dissolved, he accidentally stumbles into the job of an encoffineer, mistaking the word departures in the job ad as indicative of a position in the travel industry. The subtleties in unveiling the causes of deaths and the idea that going to work involves being amidst raw emotions whilst keeping a cool demeanour makes compelling storytelling. While the film’s energy level withers down after reaching its climax, you remain spellbound as Motoki masters the art of encoffination.

Bringing a touch of comedy, Daigo’s employer Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) commands the screen with his endearing curiosities. Watching him go from surrounding himself with life in a greenhouse of an office to slurping and tearing flesh off chicken wings after a funeral is pure pleasure. Departures transports you into someone else’s life and world, as only the best stories and films can do.

p.s. Saw David and Margaret at the preview  screening last year at Fox Studios. Jaysus she’s tiny!

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