Movie Review: Okuribito (Departures) (2009)

August 29, 2009 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller


I don’t usually review movies that are not ‘new’ at the cinemas, but in the case of ‘Okuribito’ (aka ‘Departures’), the Japanese film that won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2009 Academy Awards, I’ll have to make an exception.

Quite simply put, it is the best film I have seen in quite some time.  Without giving away too much, it is the story of how an ordinary man unwittingly becomes an Okuribito – a person who prepares the deceased for their ‘departure’.

As often is the case with movies about death, Okuribito is very much about life.  It is at its core a moving drama, infused with incredible sadness, but at the same time director Yojiro Takita has managed to blend in much humor without losing sight of the film’s message.  It is also very Japanese – and even though I consider myself acquainted with Japanese culture I found the film to be educational in many ways.


To me, the film’s strength lies in its ability to remain touching without becoming overly melodramatic or sentimental (some may disagree on this point).  Much credit must go to the seamless cast, which will be largely unknown to Western viewers – Masahiro Motoki, Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ryoko Hirosue (some might remember her from the film Wasabi with Jean Reno).  Each character has a story to tell.  Even the minor characters have subplots that are likely to leave lasting impressions.  From the blazing orchestral score to the haunting cinematography, it’s a deserving Oscar winner in every respect.

Highly recommended.

5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: It seems my blog has recently turned into a movie/book review blog.  Unfortunately I had accumulated a huge backlog of such posts so I felt I had to get them out first before I could re-focus on writingOkay, from now on, back to work on the novel!]