Movie RX of the Week: Departures

One of the many gifts of The Next Happy is that now people want share movies with me: movies that they think I will like, movies that they see The Next Happy themes in and movies that helped them through hard times---and it is awesome. I love how we can see ourselves in movies and how they work as a kind of collective dream, whether we analyze the story or not, movies impact our psyches.  That is why in the book I recommend movies to illustrate the points I make. Happily people are really enjoying this finding the films helpful, and are sharing their movie suggestions with me.  As find more movie that are helpful and healing,  I will share them here and create a Next Happy master list of  movies that will help you when dealing with loss, grief, sadness, letting go of the life you planned, moving on from what isn't working, and getting to the Next Happy. I hope you share your film suggestions with me and that you enjoy the list as it continues to grow. This week's film suggestion is a film that might not be your obvious Friday night date film. However, this is VERY much a Next Happy movie and one that I recommend highly. Departures is a surprisingly gorgeous movie about a guy who had achieved his dream of playing cello in a symphony and then lost it. Daigo, our hero,pragmatically and stoically accepts this death, quickly sells his extremely expensive cello and makes plans to return to his hometown. He is  super pragmatic about this decision and seems more okay about it than I might expect him to be ( we later learn that he has some experience from the past to prep him for loss). This is not a film in which the hero has a hard time giving up on his dream,  he decides, I think, within the first ten minutes of the film that this dream is as dead as the octupus he throws into the river.Hence, this is NOT a film I am recommending to help you decide to let go of a dream( for that I would recommend The Wrestler) rather I am reccomending this film to help you see the importance of being gentle, kind, and patient when dealing with death of any kind, including the death of a dream and the resulting feelings that occur after the loss.

When Daigo, after giving up on his dream, goes back to his hometown he doesn't get the obvious job, teaching cello to would-be musicians, rather he takes a job at what he initially thinks is a travel agency. However, this is not a place where that kind of "departure" happens---this job is  working as an undertaker's assistant. Daigo is initially extremely resistant to this work( as most of us would be) and he never-ever imagines he could be happy doing such work, he is more than a little unsure about accepting the job and even more mortified when he learns all the job requires.

Happiness sneaks in for Daigo ( I am not going to spoil it for you---I really want you to see it) and as great as it is to see a film about people finding their  Next Happy, what I really loved about this film, and what was so very unique,  was the important point this film makes about taking time, tenderness, and care when dealing with death and the transitional time after death---to lovingly, gently, tender, respectfully and ceremoniously make space for the time of transition and not to rush it or be brusk about it. Daigo teaches, with each reverent and loving detail of caring for the dead, that what has died is important and deserves to be sacredly witnessed. When we have had a death of a dream, a job, a career, a realtionship, or anything, we often want to rush through it and cover up the loss, and bury the resulting feelings, this movie discourages that rush.

As I watched the film I found myself wishing that someday, long in the future, that when I die it would be in Japan, or that I would, no matter the location, be treated so lovingly and tenderly when that inevitable time comes. Truly, I was surprised to discover that watching this kind of care made death seem a little less scary, if such  love and respect were present with us as we were no longer here. I know that might not make sense, but that is what I felt as I watched it. I also believe, that if we were to treat the death of a dream, or any loss, with as much tenderness and time, we would likely get to our Next Happy a whole lot sooner. Rushing through, being in a hurry to burry feelings, and not honoring what were loss, I believe, is likely to lead to more denial.  Paradoxical, no?

Not everyone in Daigo's life understands his love of work, and not everyone in our lives will be patient with us if we take time to grieve what we so very much wanted, but Daigo teaches that it is important to do it anyway. He lost friends and more, for sticking with this work that many regarded as dirty and disrespectful. We might get the same push from those around us, "hurry up and get back to life" we may hear in a myriad of ways. Departures teaches the value of taking your time even if others aren't okay with it.

You may, as you read this, be surprised that I found this film uplifting, but it is---and in some ways this movie feels like a love story to me; this film, I believe, celebrates both life and death, in an entirely singular way.I am so grateful to have found this movie and only wish I had seen it sooner, it makes me even more appreciative of being reverent and patient when witnessing our own grief experiences.  I hope you find it as meaningful as I did.

A couple of warnings before you watch it:

1. If you have recently had a death in your family this could be an especially hard film to watch, or it could be especially comforting. Be compassionate to your own reactions and if it feels too hard then stop watching.

2. I would definitely advise you not to watch it while eating a bucket of fried chicken. If you watch it you will know why. Don't ask, just don't eat chicken.