The dubious surprise winner of the 2009 Academy Award for best foreign film, the movie is directed by Yôjirô Takita, a prolific if undistinguished filmmaker with a long-established career in Japan. He typically works with bigger ideas and settings than this intimate, idiosyncratic movie can muster, and he never quite finds the footing to satisfy either his comedic and dramatic ambitions. Instead, the movie’s stock characters jump from one broad encounter to the next, which makes for a number of affable, nicely decorated scenes that become maddening in their lack of direction or discipline. Though not unpleasant, Departures can’t reconcile its bawdy sense of humor with the tiresome sentimentality that always lurks not far behind, and it never really recovers from the creative muddle.
Watch the trailer for Departures: