Living (2022) – The Film Reviews

Living is a British drama directed by Oliver Hermanus, while the screenplay was written by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro. It is an adaptation of a Japanese masterpiece Ikiru (1952) Akira Kurosawa, who based his film on Tolstoy’s short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich from 1886. The film premiered at the Sundance festival on January 21 last year, and was released in theaters on November 4 through Lionsgate.

The adaptation is set in London in 1953 and follows Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy), the chief bureaucrat in a department full of them and surrounded by other local government departments. His monotonous and calculated everyday life is interrupted by a visit to the doctor, the knowledge that he is terminally ill and has six months left to live. He doesn’t say anything to his son, who shows no interest in him, and in the meantime, he tries to understand the meaning of his life and find a purpose for it in the next few months.

I thought it would take a lot of courage and audacity to remake a great and timeless film made by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Living even in the opening credits it doesn’t try to hide that it’s based on a movie Ikiru and I admit that I was skeptical and suspicious at the beginning of watching. Fortunately, the film overcomes most of that skepticism and doubt.

See also  Review: Artemis Fowl (2020) - World of Film

The character of Williams is an essential component of this story, but his presence in it is not necessary until the very end, because this is not only a story about a dying man who is looking for a way to give meaning and purpose to the last months of his life – in the final, most important third of the film, we realize that it is also whether he achieved his goal, how he did it and, finally, whether it really means anything.

Much of the credit for maintaining the narrative and thematic integrity of the source material goes primarily to the screenwriter, whose screenplay cleverly adapts the original story to fit the new London setting and to narrow the story’s focus. That he succeeds in realizing both items without it seeming like some cheap gimmick and without the film losing its emotional and philosophical weight is a real achievement.

We get to know Mr. Williams and his world of monotonous and unproductive work through the newly hired Peter, a young man who still believes that civil servants are there to work and help ordinary people. His first day on the job consists of leading a group of women through a maze of corridors and rooms only to be met with refusals – the women want the area filled with the aftermath of the bombing to be cleared in order to build a children’s playground.

See also  Review: Yes 5 Bloods (2020)

With that lightly established and persistently sustained existential despair and uncertainty, the story shifts to the protagonist, who, for probably the first time in his career, quits his job before the end of his working hours. After learning about the disease, he quits his job and visits the resort he always wanted to visit. There he meets a writer with insomnia who presents him with a life filled with drink and women, without worrying about what the future will bring.

Williams’ little adventure is not the end of his story because there is no deeper lesson in his frivolous quest and the real point cannot be revealed until his story is over. Meanwhile, he forms a friendship with a former, much younger colleague, and his ulterior motive for this is that he is convinced that she actually knows how to live, considering how joyful she always is. All of this is straightforward and simple, and the meaning is in the rhythm, the relationship between what Williams wants and what he gets and how disappointing it all is and, of course, in Bill Nye’s perfect performance.

The actor presents us with a perfectly ordinary man who realizes that his life was simple, boring and without purpose. There is an infinite sadness in watching this man try to die with dignity, not because it is in his nature, but because it is what is expected of him as a gentleman and what he has expected of himself. Bill Nighy gives us a nuanced, striking and heartbreaking performance that rightfully earned him his first Oscar nomination.

See also  Review: The Old Guard (2020)

The main themes of the film are death, learning how to live, the inefficiency of bureaucracy and the decay of classic family life. This is a slow-paced arthouse work which means it won’t be to everyone’s taste and many will find it boring, but I think it will leave you feeling like you’ve watched a wonderful and poignant life lesson. Classy and impressive acting performances are complemented by excellent costumes and the overall aesthetics of the film. Sure, making this adaptation was a significant gamble, but the filmmakers believed in the strength of what they had, and it paid off in a thoughtful and emotionally powerful way.

Living is a British remake of a Japanese classic Ikiru Akire Kurosawa – the story of an ordinary man who, after years of existence in the shadows, tries to find meaning and purpose in his life.

my final rating: 8/10

Alpha News
Latest posts by Alpha News (see all)

You may also like: