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  • Writer's pictureMatthieu Côté

LIVING Review: Small but Extraordinary Piece of Existentialism

"Living" is based on the original screenplay from Akira Kurosawa "Ikiru", a beloved classic from one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. It was an interesting decision to remake the film with Bill Nighy as the main star, but for some reason, I had no problem at all with a new take on this material under the right hands. "Ikiru" is an emotional film about an aging bureaucrat who learns that he has a terminal disease, and the challenge for director Oliver Hermanus was to recreate that while making its own movie, and that's exactly what they did. I thought the movie was wonderful and really moving.

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

I want to give a little bit of context before sharing my full thoughts on the movie; it's just a small anecdote that ties into my experience watching "Living." On the day I saw the film, I went to make a quick visit at my grandfather's house to give him his belated Christmas gift. He had some health issues in the past year and recently talked to us about the documentary "Searching For Sugar Man" and the story of the musician Sixto Rodriguez. He wanted a copy of Rodriguez's album "Cold Fact," so I bought it for him and I dropped by his house for 5-10 minutes to give it to him. Even though he was very happy to see me, I had to leave him because I had other engagements to attend to that evening.

I moved on with my evening and then later that night I decided to watch "Living" that I had the opportunity to see. The reason I'm sharing my little anecdote is because there's something that we can all relate to with seeing our grandparents aging and wanting to spend more time with us. Yet, as adults, we are all living fast-paced lives and can't seem to find the time for them.

That's basically at the heart of "Living," which I thought was fantastic, so I immediately connected with the film on that emotional level. I was seeing my grandfather in Bill Nighy's character, Mr. Williams. The movie is a sweet, pure, and heart-warming piece of existentialism that explores mortality, the banality of bureaucracy, and the meaning of life with Bill Nighy giving the performance of a lifetime. The way he interacts with other people and the impact he has on them is what makes it so special.

The film plays out like a great song that doesn't miss a beat; I thought it was beautiful, honest, and genuine. All the supporting actors in the film also added their bit of personality, which is why this film ends up feeling much different than the 1952 version of "Ikiru". A huge discovery for me was Aimee Lou Wood playing the role of a co-worker that forms a bond of affection with Mr. Williams as he is looking to find meaning in his last moments on Earth.

She was extremely likeable in every scene she appeared in and also showed her range in the more emotional moments. I thought she had a natural and honest quality that I loved seeing in actors. Overall, the movie was hitting the right notes from start to finish, and I know I will be watching it again because of that. The Oscar nominations were just announced this morning and Bill Nighy was nominated for Best Actor which is not really a surprise but great news for him!

Initial Score: 9/10

Living starts playing in limited theaters in Quebec on January 27th 2023

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