Departures (a.k.a. Then Came You), 2018.
Directed by Peter Hutchings.
Starring Asa Butterfield, Maisie Williams, Nina Dobrev, Ken Jeong, David Koechner, Tyler Hoechlin, Tituss Burgess, Margot Bingham, Peyton List, Sonya Walger, Colin Moss and Briana Venskus.
A hypochondriac working as an airport baggage handler is forced to confront his fears when a British teenager with a terminal illness enlists him to help her carry out her eccentric bucket list.
Grounding a film in the aviation industry can be a cute – if dangerous – concept. It will always invite comparison to popular films in the same niche, such as The Terminal, Up in the Air, Flightplan and even parts of Catch Me If You Can (an underrated Spielberg classic). Having a film tackle teenage cancer will also summon comparison with other films in what has been a particularly trendy category since The Fault in Our Stars. Departures is walking a fine line juggling both of these concepts, and early indications are not good, with broadly-sketched characters, tired dialogue and unoriginal plot developments. Stick with it though, and the film does eventually begin to take off.
Butterfield is Calvin, an awkward college drop-out working at Albany airport and struggling with this mental health. He meets the irreverent Skye when she makes a dramatic entrance to his cancer support group and begins peppering him with questions and opinions. Skye is, of course, projecting a happy-go-lucky and multi-coloured-hair persona over her anger at receiving a terminal diagnosis. She also, quelle surprise, has a bucket list including rebellious things such as punching someone and being arrested. The character of Skye is particularly recycled and lacking in originality to begin with, but Williams does eventually wear you down to sympathy by the second half of the film. Calvin has a bit more about him for Butterfield to work with, but Butterfield is also brilliant at awkward and internal characters.
Most of the film’s success can be credited to its cast, who have all worked with far better material than they’re given by Departures. Asa Butterfield and Maisie Williams, as the leads, have both obviously had far higher-profile, and quality, work previously (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Journey’s End, Game of Thrones). Nina Dobrev is present in the supporting cast, clearly stretching her wings in the film industry after a lot of success with TV’s The Vampire Diaries. Even Ken Jeong and Tituss Burgess pop up in surprisingly small roles. They are excellent as expected, but pedalling mued versions of the characters they normally portray: Jeong is a sympathetic cop, trying to be down with the kids in his usual bristly way, and Burgess a sassy and flamboyant flight attendant (of course – but no patch on his Titus Andromedon persona from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).
The second half of Departures is where is the film finally finds its footing and begins to distinguish itself a little from other youth cancer dramas. Calvin’s background is further revealed, his tentative relationship with Izzy is explored a bit more, and his friendship with Skye starts to ring true. Unfortunately, the parents involved – bar Calvin’s Dad Bob (David Koechner) – stay frustratingly placeholder-y, with Skye’s parents (Sonya Walger and Colin Moss) ready to cry when appropriate and snuggle up on her bed with her when she’s feeling loving (they literally do it exactly the same way twice, and it’s a little creepy).
Departures is a diverting enough piece of fluff, if you’re in the mood for some sweet relationships or to get a little weepy. If you’re a fan of Butterfield or Williams (or even Jeong and Burgess), by all means check it out – but you wouldn’t have to look too far to find them in something better.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film:★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★