Living

January 26, 202390/1006 min
Starring
Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp
Written by
Kazoo Ishiguro ( screenplay ). Akira Kurosawa ( original screenplay)
Directed by
Oliver Hermanus
Run Time
1h 42min
Release Date
January 27th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

           Retelling a classic can always be a tricky thing, mostly because how do you equal or improve on what some would consider perfection?  In 1952, Akira Kurosawa made Ikiru, which after viewing, would leave you a little heavier as you weigh the impact you might have on this earth during your lifetime. Now a new version is here to make a new generation ask that same question with this retelling by writer Kazuo Ishiguro and director Oliver Hermanus in their film Living.

             Set in 1950’s London, today is the first day for Mr. Wakeling (Alex Sharp) in a municipal complaints office. As he arrives at the train station we are introduced to his co-workers, who are mostly men of few words, especially this early in the morning. It is after their arrival at their destination that we meet their boss, a Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy), who carries himself in a very up-tight way, for lack of a better description. Once in the office, the mood is not much different as the five men and Mrs. Harris (Aimee Lou Wood) don’t do much of anything to get things done, instead placing complaints in a pile and saying “ We can keep it here”. Mr. Williams, as well as most of that group, is happy to live that life, one with no excitement, as who has time for that. That changes for Mr. Williams after a visit to the doctor, in which he finds out he has a terminal cancer and that he doesn’t have long to live. Mr. Williams reacts to that news by withdrawing half of his life savings and heading to a resort town, intending to live it up, even if he really doesn’t know how to do that. After that stage, the question of lasting impact creeps into his mind, as he realizes the perfect way to leave his mark on this  world.

 Living is quite simply a beautiful film that silently sneaks into your heart and leaves you with all kinds of feels. It does that even with its modest adaptation that never moves beyond its leisurely narrative pace, taking its time to tell a story about someone who doesn’t have much time left. Although the subject matter might sound intense, Ishiguro’s script never lets you feel that weight, nor manipulate you in order to incite a certain emotion, and while the issue with mortality might sound scary, everything with the story flows with a true sense of honesty.

Living ends up being an endearing lesson in the art of living that has both sensitive direction and a script that is deep. Everything technical works, but what makes this version so special is the performance by Nighy. His portrayal is an engrossing view of a leader’s attempt to transform his wiring. It also manages to keep part of the desperate poetry of Ikriu intact, even as it sprinkles in some optimism, which of course adds a little lightness to a film that could feel heavy to some. Ultimately Living is a life affirming film that shows it is never too late to live and manages to be one of the more poignant and emotional films you will see this year.

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