Living (2022)

Director: Oliver Hermanus

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Certification: 12

Starring: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke, Adrian Rawlins, Hubert Burton, Oliver Chris, Michael Cochrane

It's a daunting task to adapt a well-regarded work, so celebrated novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and director Oliver Hermanus had their hands full with this British remake of Akira Kurosawa's masterful Ikiru. The pair relocate the story to 1950's London, which is captured in the opening credits which gazes at the city's past through a nostalgic lens.

The morning begins with bowler-hat wearing employees at the train station, treating their commute to work with a quiet dignity similar to church. It's a curious sight for Mr. Wakeling (Alex Sharp), the newest employee at the Public Works Department in London City Council. This ritualistic experience continues with the appearance of senior bureaucrat Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy), complete with employee greetings before following at a distance.

As the employees undertake their work while buried in paperwork, the uninspired bureaucrats pass jobs to other departments in attempts to off-load responsibility. Mr. Williams' life is changed when he's given a terminal diagnosis, with only six-months left to live. He wishes to open up about this life-changing news, although he's left at a distance by his son and wife preoccupied with getting their own place.

This necessity at opening up is hindered by a "stiff upper lip" style reluctance, which leaves important conversations unspoken and internalized. Nighy delivers an exceptional performance, capturing the character's need to discuss such important matters hidden behind a stoic exterior. Mr. Williams' pain is felt, as he's dismayed at the unfulfilling life he led and uncertain with how to move forward.

He tries finding help from the hedonistic Mr. Sutherland (a vigorous Tom Burke) and the life-loving Miss. Harris (a terrific Aimee Lou Wood), as they offer different ways he can enjoy new experiences, complete with a new hat and a rabbit toy. It's telling how most characters are only known by their title and surname, which fits them feeling less like real people and more like unfulfilled bodies moving through the roles they feel trapped within.

The final act captures the impact of Mr. Williams' determination and actions, shown to great effect while he's trying to persevere amidst the suffocating nature of bureaucracy. Closing this off is a heartfelt rendition of 'The Rowan Tree' which the protagonist previously sang, yet where it previously captured his sadness at the limited time remaining, it now marks his satisfaction at what he managed to achieve. It's unfortunate this is followed by an unnecessary ending which spells things out, particularly with a visual comparison. Hermanus' remake feels less trusting with viewers than the original, yet there remains much to admire with this heartfelt tale.

Living is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital Download