A hypochondriac working as an airport baggage handler is forced to confront his fears when a teenager with a terminal illness enlists him to help her carry out her eccentric bucket list.
Maisie Williams and Asa Butterfield are electric together from the moment they meet in a cancer support group. Butterfield’s Calvin is convinced everything is wrong with him, whilst Williams as Skye lives in permanent hope. She has a bucket list, whilst he just believes he’s ill.
Driven by the ridiculously forthright Skye, and the much more reserved Izzy (Nina Debrov), he experiences life as it’s meant to be lived. Big, bold and brave, but with a secret that one girl knows and the other doesn’t until it’s too late. It’s a nuanced and deep performance executed perfectly by Butterfield with strong support from Williams and Debrov as two powerful influences on his life – one a friend, the other his love interest.
It’d be easy to write Calvin in an unsympathetic light – he feels that there must be something wrong with him and exploits circumstances to prove his perceived illness – but Butterfield’s performance from Fergal Rock’s script is one that draws emotional depth from his character. He’s the perfect foil to the over-the-top Williams, who shines brightly with a character that would be easy to find annoying.
Also known as Then Came You, Fergal Rock’s Departures does tread a fine line of cliche and cloying. There have been examples of the “young people suffering” motif over the years and this film has a sense of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars in parts. It’s a superb film that doesn’t tug at the heartstrings too much, yet still draws an emotional reaction from its audience whilst maintaining a fine sense of humour.
The bucket list motif is played well and succeeds thanks to the chemistry between Wiliams and Butterfield. They’re young fools and Skye improves Calvin’s life, more for her own amusement than for his until he comes to terms with who he is. Bringing the young man out of his shell, he needs her as much as she needs him, but the course of this is a film of friendships that don’t always run smoothly especially as both characters explore the truths of their lives whilst Calvin’s freedom becomes greater, Skye’s is reduced and the truths come out. The change of tone in the film hits like a thunderclap but is far from unexpected. It doesn’t abandon what made the film compelling to that point and thoroughly succeeds in cementing the quality of the performances of all involved.
Butterfield will be familiar to fans of Netflix series Sex Education, though he has a strong body of work outside of that, whilst Williams has made a name for herself in Game of Thrones. Beyond the two leads, it’s a film of familiar faces that will please film and television fans – Nina Debrov, Tyler Hoechlin, David Koechner, Tituss Burgess, Briana Venskus and Ken Jeong amongst them. Venskus and Jeong manage to steal the scene as to the two police officers who run into Calvin and Skye from time to time and end up helping with Skye’s list.
Directed by Peter Hutchings and with Andre Lascaris as the cinematographer, Departures captures how it feels to be awkward with the world and believe that there’s more to life than what you’ve got. It shows how the exuberance of youth has to give way to the reality of growing up without descending into full-on melancholia. It’s a colourful world that takes us from the mundane world of the airport to the excess of a New York Party back to everyday life without ever losing track of the world it’s trying to explore. The story of Departures is the story of living every day and it’s definitely a story worth telling.
Dir: Peter Hutchings
Scr: Fergal Rock
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Debrov
DOP: Andre Lascaris
Runtime: 92 mins
Departures is available on Digital from 4th March 2019.