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LIVING (2023)

Release Date: 01/27/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

"In 1950s London, a humorless civil servant decides to take time off work to experience life after receiving a grim diagnosis." 


Living is a remake of the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru, directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Writer and producer Kazou Ishiguro had long dreamed of doing an English remake of the film and it was worth the long wait with Englishman Bill Nighy at the helm in perhaps one of his best roles yet.

Williams (Bill Nighy) is in charge of the Public Works Department in post WWII England. He is taciturn, bordering on surly with both his co-workers and his son. He leads a simple life, going to work and then heading home for dinner each night. That is, until he receives news of a terminal illness and is given only a few months to live. Even when the doctor informs him of this tragic news, there’s very little in the way of emotion. He responds with one word only, “Quite.” After this shock, he ditches work for a while. A few days of fun with a stranger helps him let off some steam and Nighy’s drunken karaoke-esque turn at a bar will leave you in tears. When he returns to the city, he links up with his co-worker Margaret (Aimee Lou Wood) and learns that his office nickname is Mr. Zombie. 


After stewing in self-reflection for a while, he returns to the office with a renewed sense of purpose and the remaining minutes of the film are spent following Williams as he tries to give his life some meaning in his final days. Living admittedly won’t be a hit for some. It moves painfully slowly at times and it can come off a bit flat, especially because Nighy’s performance is so understated. But this slow moving story is worth a watch if you are prepared to peel back the layers and examine the messages that director Oliver Hermanus patiently allows to bubble to the surface. 


The themes are deeper than they might appear at first glance as the movie forces you to sit with your own life’s purpose and what being alive truly means. It’s hard to avoid feeling like you should quit your job and start really living after sitting through the one hour and forty-two minute runtime. But Bill Nighy shines, slowly winning you over by making Williams relatable even if he doesn’t start out as particularly likable. And the sweet sentiment at the end will reassure anyone who doubts that their life matters, no matter how small or inconsequential it might seem.

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