Living (2022)

Director: Oliver Hermanus
Writer: Kazuo Ishiguro
Remake of: Ikiru (1952)
Cast: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Oliver Chris, Adrian Rawlins, Hubert Burton, Michael Cochrane, Patsy Ferran, Barney Fishwick, Tom Burke
Seen on: 8.2.2023

Williams (Bill Nighy) has spent his entire life working as a civil servant. His retirement is approaching, but then he receives a dire diagnosis, learning that he probably won’t live long anymore. If he actually lived at all. Williams tries to figure that out – and tries to figure out he might start living before he dies.

There were a couple of moments where Living lost me, but Nighy never did – his performance is absolutely fantastic and makes the film.

The film poster showing Williams (Bill Nighy) looking at his watch in front of a county office.

There is not that much that is new about Living, and that is not just because the film is a remake (I haven’t seen the original). There are quite a few stories about people, mostly men, learning how to grasp life by the horns because they know that they can’t afford to wait anymore. But with the subtle, intricate performance by Nighy, you don’t really qestion this familiarity. You’re too busy going along with Williams.

There were a couple of things, though, where I couldn’t go along as much as I maybe would have liked. His interactions with Ms Harris were incredibly uncomfortable for me. I saw things more from her perspective: her (former) boss unloading the most personal shit on her and hoping that she somehow shows him the secret to life, when she is just trying to live herself. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the movie realized just how often Williams tramples over Ms Harris’ boundaries. I also found Wakeling (Alex Sharp) incredibly annoying and an unnecessary presence in the film, especially the romance that ensues with Ms Harris (goodness forbid that Ms Harris would have just been able to go about her own life).

Williams (Bill Nighy) having a drink with Ms Harris (Aimee Lou Wood).

Worst of all, probably, was the pivotal playground that I found so badly constructed that I could barely stand to look at it. While the film expected me to have this great emotional moment, all I could think was: when the children swing there, they will swing right into the merry-go-round. And that’s supposed to be Williams’ great legacy?

Despite these misgivings on my part, there was always Nighy to bring the film back. I would have loved if the film had spent a little more time on him and his relationship with his son Michael (Barney Fishwick), especially because Michael’s wife Fiona (Patsy Ferran), or rather Ferran, actually manages to steal the film from under Nighy’s nose for the dinner scene that is hilarious. But I have to say that I liked the bitter note the film ends their relationship on.

The film certainly packs a punch, and, I know I am repeating myself, but he deserves it: Bill Nighy is just that good. So, it’s definitely worth seeing. But I was maybe hoping for a little more.

Williams (Bill Nighy) in a fancy restaurant.

Summarizing: has issues but Nighy makes up for all of them.

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