Monday, July 12, 2010

Departures (2008)

Departures (2008) is a Japanese film that is a must see for those in the palliative care field. I first learned of it from a family member of a patient I was caring for. The son felt it so necessary that I see the film that he acted out part of the movie, dropping to his knees to act out a scene while I was rounding.


The movie won and academy award for best foreign language film in 2009. The movie is about a young cellist who looses his symphony job, and must move back to the town where he was raised. He sees an ad in the paper for a job in "departures", and assumes it must be in the travel industry.

He is hired on the spot and then learns that there was a typo, and it is actually a job with "the departed" and he will be someone in the casketing industry.

I love many things about this film. Most tangible is the cultural beauty of the dying and funeral process in Japan. The whole family is present during the ritual washing, putting on make-up, and placement into the casket. Just as in our work, the viewer sees family dysfunction, anger and sadness during this process.

I couldn't help but notice the similarities with our profession. The main character moves from fear and squeamishness at death, to a profound awareness of the brevity of life - coming home one day to grasp his wife and hold on to her as if he felt his own life ebbing away. He accepts that death is a part of life, and continues to work with the dead, even when shunned by friends and family for such a "disrespectful" job.

Just like palliative care, he profoundly helps the families he encounters. They are full of gratitude when he is finishes his job. He treats the bodies with respect and compassion, which seems to ease some of the pain the families are feeling.

I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say this film is rich in personal growth, forgiveness and healing. With the backdrop of a profession that deals with death, and musical score that incorporates the talented cellist, it is easy to see why this film is beautiful and a must see for those who work with people at the end of life.

Watch the trailer below or visit the official site here.



5 Responses to “Departures (2008)”

Patrice Villars said...
July 12, 2010 at 8:40 AM

I love this movie. Our hospice team watched it together at our first team movie night. It's a great film to watch with non-palliative peeps who don't (can't) really appreciate the beauty and connection nor the sometime loneliness and misunderstanding we experience as we try to 'explain' to others what we do. It's a little (just a little) cheesy, but a very well done beautiful film. Thanks for posting.


Anonymous said...
July 12, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Thanks for the heads up. Looks like a good weekend to see and then to share with others. Susan W Reynolds


CyndiC, RN said...
July 21, 2010 at 3:48 PM

Looks like an interesting movie, but does the obnoxious MUZAK play throughout the film?


CyndiC, RN said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Looks like an interesting movie, but does the obnoxious MUZAK play throughout the film?


Patrice Villars said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

I love this movie. Our hospice team watched it together at our first team movie night. It's a great film to watch with non-palliative peeps who don't (can't) really appreciate the beauty and connection nor the sometime loneliness and misunderstanding we experience as we try to 'explain' to others what we do. It's a little (just a little) cheesy, but a very well done beautiful film. Thanks for posting.