Director: Oliver Hermanus
Writer: Kazuo Ishiguro
Starring: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke
Living, which is directed by Oliver Hermanus and written by Kazuo Ishiguro, is an adaptation of Akira Kurasawa’s Ikiru, which is itself an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It’s a moving story about life, death, and finding joy in the small things.
Bill Nighy is beyond fantastic in the film, giving a moving performance as Mr. Williams. He’s a bureaucrat endlessly working without any real friends, even his son doesn’t want to spend time with him. He leads an orderly life, living by routine to the point that when he’s late to work, his colleagues are all surprised. After being told that he has a terminal illness, he re-evaluates his life, and wondering when he became so rigid. In his youth he wasn’t like what he’s become and there’s a shadow of regret over his life.
He decides to make the most out of the remaining time that he has left, first on a day trip to the sea-side joining someone he meets in a cafe and then taking example from a colleague at work, Margaret, who is played by the wonderful Aimee Lou Wood. Margaret has a positive outlook on life, making things full of whimsy and turning the ordinary into something fun. She has nicknames for everyone at work, but they’re not malicious, just funny observations about who they are.
Mr Williams is very straight laced, with his set routine and isn’t one to make converstaion with others. Because of this, while he’s able to open up to Margaret about his illness, he’s not able to tell his son. He reherses what he’s going to say, but is unable to actually say it. In the same way that his son is unable to speak to him about what he wants. It’s an awkward relationship, which leads to some funny and sad scenes. While the film is about death, it’s not a bleak or depressing film. It has it’s emotional moments, but it’s much more focused on finding happiness, and a few satirical moments about bureaucracy with paperwork just being pushed endlessly from department to department. There are quite a few funny moments, even if the film is not a full on comedy.
One of the main themes is finding joy in the little things. Things like the day to day interactions with people or singing a well loved song, are the important things in life. With his remaining time Mr. Williams sets forth to accomplish something, nothing major, just helping set up a children’s park. There’s a great sense of joy from something so small, but at the same time he’s aware that while it will outlast him, it will eventually be replaced by something else. There’s a real sense that everything is temporary.
Living is a sentimental and life affirming film, showing that it’s never too late to live life. Bill Nighy is fantastic, giving one of the best performances of his career. A poignant and emotional film.
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