Film - Living

Out now on Digital and coming to DVD and Blu-ray next week, thanks to Lionsgate UK, Tony Cross watched Living [slight spoilers] ...

Living, directed by Oliver Hermanus, is a re-make of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, Ikiru. It was adapted by Kazuo Ishiguro, which gives it impeccable credentials.

The story is about Rodney Williams (Bill Nighy) a senior civil servant working for the London County Council in 1953. He is as buttoned up as it is possible to be. We find out later that Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood) had nicknamed him ‘Zombie’. He’s dry as dust. His job seems to be helping projects disappear into that locked filing cabinet that Douglas Adams refers to in ‘A Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ He’s not a bad man, nor a particularly good one. He’s just a bureaucrat who has been institutionalised.

He finds out he has cancer and has six months to live. He can’t bring himself to tell his son and daughter-in-law, who he lives with. The next thing we see is he’s has gone to a seaside town to kill himself, as he reveals to Mr Sutherland (Tom Burke) but can’t go through with it. Sutherland takes Williams for a night out. It’s a bravura sequence and ends on quite an emotional notes.

At this point he’s basically skiving off work. He bumps into Margaret Harris – who has left the London County Council – and he finds himself attracted to her as an illustration of what it means to be alive. Margaret is the only person he tells apart from Sutherland that he’s dying.

He decides that before he dies he’s going to do something good and takes a grip of a project to build a new children’s playground. He dies shortly after it is finished.

There is, of course, more to it than that. But I think it doesn’t need me to tell you the entire plot. You have Wikipedia and IMDb for that.

It is a fine film. Regular reader(s) of my reviews will know that I have a soft spot for films where the emotion is there, but so buried that a mere twitch might be felt like an emotional earthquake. So, Living is perfect for that. Bill Nighy’s performance is excellent. It would be a film worth watching just for this performance. It is no surprise he’s nominated for an Oscar.

The supporting cast though is also excellent. There’s not a dud performance in it. Even in the smallest role, for example Thomas Coombes as a Police Constable and Alex Sharp as Peter Wakeling, one of Williams’s department, have a scene at the end which is absolutely superbly played and set off this old man’s tear ducts. Applause too for Aimee Lou Wood. But as I said no one puts in a bad performance. It is excellently cast (by Kahleen Crawford).

Ishiguro’s script is also perfect. It manages to shadow the original without duplicating it. The thing with Ishiguro in my limited experience is he knows how to write about those barely perceptible emotional earthquakes I mentioned earlier. Those things where nothing seems to be happening but actually everything is happening.

The same applies to Hermanus’s direction, which is discreet and subtle enough to be perfect for the material. Jamie Ramsay’s cinematography is also worth a shout out.

So, I’d definitely give it a watch if I were you. And watch Ikiru too. Maybe not as a double bill though. Unless you like melancholy in your life.

Follow Tony on Twitter @Lokster71

Image - Lionsgate

Living is on digital from 3rd March and Blu-ray & DVD 13th March 2023

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