‘The Departure’ shows the life of a Buddhist priest who works with people grappling with their suicidal thoughts

From Nemoto grappling with his own health to helping others, the audience is shown a complex range of emotions.


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In The Departure, a documentary directed by Lana Wilson, audiences are given a unique look into the life of a reformed party boy who became a Buddhist priest and now counsels people grappling with suicidal thoughts.

Ittetsu Nemoto lives in the Japanese countryside with his family, which includes his young son. In addition to being a husband and father, he spends his days taking numerous calls and making home visits to the people he spends his life helping.

The viewer is taken into Nemoto’s life as he goes on doctor visits. On these visits, the audience finds out that he is at risk of heart disease from frequent smoking. His concern is heightened by the fact that he has suffered from a heart attack in the past.

It is the delicate balance of grappling with his own potential death and trying to help others avoid their desire for death that makes this documentary such an intensely beautiful story.

The topic of rising suicide rates is frequently addressed in the film. Nemoto’s patients often report they feel hopeless and uncertain of their future.

In response to this, Nemoto has them do an exercise in which they write down nine things about their lives that they value. Then he has them slowly crumple all of the pieces of paper into balls and throw them away. At the end, he tells them this is what they would be left with if they committed suicide.

Wilson explained that the concept for the documentary was so interesting to her because she believes death reminds people what is important in life. She was also interested in communicating with Nemoto to figure out what he says to people to encourage them to live.

“I love the idea of creating a film that helped the audience think about dying and try to remind them about what’s most precious in the time they have alive,” Wilson said.

The audience is forced to understand the stress Nemoto feels between his personal life and the work he does to try and save others from themselves through watching his interactions with his patients and family.

This emotionally charged documentary is a beautifully painted portrait of a lifestyle no one could ever come to understand or appreciate any other way. I recommend seeing it to anyone who would like to widen their comprehension of people who struggle with mental illness.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are resources available on campus. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the MU behavioral health crisis hotline is 573-882-6601.

Edited by Claire Colby | ccolby@themaneater.com

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