Departures (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Yojiro Takita's gentle comic drama centres upon a cellist (Masahiro Motoki) who, after his orchestra disbands, returns to his hometown.

Here he mistakenly applies for a job in "departures" – he thinks it's a travel agency, whereas it's a business of "encoffinment", the ritualised undertaking of the dead. While his wife and friends are mortified by his choice, the observation of these precise and respectful last rites conveys not only the solace of the bereaved but the consolation of the work itself to the cellist's bruised soul. Its occasional mawkishness, and the backstory of Motoki's estranged father, suggest why the Academy awarded it Best Foreign Language Film last year – it plucks those strings a little too eagerly – but the understated playing and its good-heartedness will keep you on its side.