Great story, awesome soundtrack, perfect comedic timing and not really as morbid as it looks! :->
Departures--or Okuribito--is about Daigo, a cellist who lost his job at the orchestra in Tokyo. Because of that, he decides to resign as a professional musician and instead look for a job in his old hometown in Yamagata. In his search, he finds an ad for an agency (NK Agents) that "assists in journeys," and he takes this job not knowing the job was about encoffinment!
This movie is about family: you find yourself learning from the families who've lost their loved ones (most especially the family of the lady who owned the bath house), Daigo's own family (his wife Mika and his relationship with his parents), and even from the little non-family family that is the NK Agents (Daigo, Shoei, and Yuriko); and about acceptance, not only of one's "unusual job" but also of all faults... I suppose a better word is reconciliation.
In a review, Walter Pless writes:
"This is a perspective on death that could help materialistic Western audiences to focus on the things that are really important in life. Departures is about love, family, loyalty, respect, responsibility, and even the place of humans in the natural world. But its central theme is reconciliation....
"Daigo’s reconciliation with his pregnant wife and his interactions with the local owner of the sento, or bath house, and its clientele, encompass a wide range of human emotions, including basic human prejudices. But his new-found profession turns out to be a unifying and positive factor in his own life and in the lives of bereaved families within the community.
"Daigo earns respect, and bickering families are reconciled through his ministrations over the body of their relative. The climax comes in a moving scene when Daigo has to prepare the body of his own long-estranged father. Reconciliation is at the heart of Departures....
"Departures transcends its morbid subject and one’s initial apprehension at its unconventional subject is soon swept away by its positive message about the dignity of being human, both in life and in death.----
You know how you can't ever keep something good to yourself? This is one of those times for me! Go see it!
Just two tips:
1) Don't eat while watching, and
2) have lots of tissue on hand.