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Written by Braga Lena
Daigo is the main character of the film. He is a young man, about 35 years old who lives in Tokyo at the beginning of the film. He is a talented cello player but because the orchestra he played with was fired by their director, he is forced to find work somewhere else. Daigo decides to move to his hometown, a little village, where he hopes to find a steady job. Moving back to his old house made him remember his father who walked out on him and his mother when he was 5 years old. Because of this, he has a deep hatred for him and criticizes harshly those who leave their families for whatever reason they might have. Daigo begins to work as a mortician and while the pay is good, he tries to hide it from his wife and from those around him, fearing that they will never understand him and that they will only criticize him. His fears come to life when his wife finds about what kind of job he does. Because of this, she leaves him and Daigo begins to think seriously about quitting his job. Despite all the criticize he faces, Daigo continues to work as a mortician, knowing that the work he does affects the life of those he helps. Towards the end of the film, Daigo receives a telegram announcing him that his father passed away. At first, he refuses to go and see him, but is convinced by his wife and by Uemura who tell him that he will regret if doesn’t go. The resentment Daigo had about his father disappears when he discovers a stone letter he gave to his father as a child. The realization that his father didn’t forgot him, makes Daigo be more prepared for the challenges he will have to face in the future and it also makes him feel at peace.
Sasaki is Daigo’s employer and the owner of a business who provides funeral services for the dead. Not many information are given about him apart from the fact that he started working as a mortician after his wife died. The tragic event eventually prompted Sasaki to offer his services to those in need. Sasaki becomes Daigo’s mentor and father figure, offering him emotional support after Mika leaves him. Sasaki takes pride in the work he performs and the desire to make everything perfect changes the way Daigo thinks about death. Careful and attentive to details, the funeral rituals performed by Sasaki look more like artistic performances that inspire grace and respect. Because of this, the relatives of the deceased usually end up expressing their gratitude by the work done by Sasaki.
Mika is Daigo’s young wife. She is presented as being a generally happy and positive person, happy to support her husband in whatever he wants to do. Instead of complaining about Daigo’s decision to move to the countryside, she considers the event as being something positive. Mika follows her husband and accepts his decisions without complaining. Because of this, it is maybe shocking to see her react in a negative way when she finds where her husband works. Mika decides to go an live with her parents but returns to Daigo when she finds out that she is pregnant. In the end, she accepts her husband’s profession and even admits that his work influences positively the life of those who lost someone.
Tsuyako Yamashita is an old woman who owns a bath house in the village where Daigo moves. The bath house started out when Daigo was a child and Tsuyako Yamashita and the bath house remained in his memory because it was something he associated with his family. Tsuyako Yamashita is also the mother of one of Daigo’s former classmate with whom he meets soon after moving into the village. When Tsuyako Yamashita suddenly dies, Daigo performs her funeral ritual which makes Tsuyako Yamashita’s son become more accepting of Daigo’s job.
Uemura is Sasaki’s secretary when Daigo is hired. She is a young woman, cheerful and positive who tries to encourage Daigo to continue working as a mortician. Towards the end, it is revealed that she ran away from her family to be with a man she was in love with and that she left her young son behind. Because of this, she is harshly criticized by Daigo who can’t understand how a parent could abandon his or her child.
Hirata is the old man who is always present in the bath house. It is hinted that he and Tsuyako Yamashita may have been involved emotionally before her death. Towards the end of the film, during Tsuyako Yamashita funeral, Hirata is present but not as being an observant, but as a person who works in the crematorium.
Yamashita is Tsuyako Yamashita’s son and also one of Daigo’s former classmates. When Daigo moves back to his hometown, Yamashita is among the first people he encounters. Just like Daigo, Yamashita is married and has a child. When Yamashita finds about Daigo’s job, he forbids his wife and child to speak with Daigo and urges Daigo to find another job.
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