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Living (Autism Friendly Screening) (12A)

Cast: Aimee Lou Wood, Tom Burke, Bill Nighy, Alex Sharp
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Kazuo Ishiguro
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Release Date: 04/11/2022
Running Time: 102mins
Country: UK
Year: 2022

Widowed bureaucrat Mr Williams diligently shuffles papers at County Hall in 1950s London, overseeing public works alongside Mr Middleton, Mr Rusbridger, Mr Hart, Ms Harris and new arrival Mr Wakeling. A medical check-up reveals a diagnosis of terminal stomach cancer and once Mr Williams finally whispers the dreaded words aloud ("The doctor has given me six months... eight or nine at a stretch"), he seeks peace by personally championing plans for a children's playground.


LondonNet Film Review

Living (12A) Film Review from LondonNet

In 2008, when my mother lost a battle of attrition against cancer like so many beautiful, fierce warriors before her, I resolved to deeply cherish my father (I tell him that I love him every day) and the relationships that nourish me. I feel grateful beyond words that my mother and I parted ways without secrets or regrets, and as her final act of unconditional love, she encouraged me to seek clarity in a sea of grief and despair that I feared would swallow me whole. Memories of that time are my constant companion and they resurfaced during director Oliver Hermanus’s exquisite English-language remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 drama Ikiru about a terminally ill man who acknowledges the emptiness of his existence just before it is cruelly snatched from him…

Relocated from post-war Japan to London by Nobel and Booker Prize-winning novelist and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains Of The Day), Living wreaks emotional devastation in the lingering silences between characters who have kept calm and carried on since the Second World War. Those moments when the right words do not materialise – between a dying father and his clueless son, between sharp-suited civil servants at the mercy of bureaucratic red tape – are heartbreaking, and Hermanus allows us the time and space to feel each desolating blow.

A career-best central performance from Bill Nighy, who will be a formidable contender for Best Actor at next year’s Oscars, galvanises every elegantly crafted scene. He delivers a mesmerising masterclass in painfully quiet servitude tinged with regret that dials back the comic flamboyance we have come to expect from the gregarious star of Love Actually. Touching interludes with co-star Aimee Lou Wood’s work colleague, one of the few people to know his medical diagnosis and witness a renewed resolve in the shadow of death, glister like perfectly polished gemstones.

Widowed bureaucrat Mr Williams (Nighy) diligently shuffles papers at County Hall, overseeing public works alongside Mr Middleton (Adrian Rawlins), Mr Rusbridger (Hubert Burton), Mr Hart (Oliver Chris), Ms Harris (Wood) and new arrival Mr Wakeling (Alex Sharp). A medical check-up reveals a diagnosis of terminal stomach cancer and once Mr Williams finally whispers the dreaded words aloud (“The doctor has given me six months… eight or nine at a stretch”), he seeks peace by personally championing plans for a children’s playground.

Living is a magnificent meditation on mortality that savours every second of the 102-minute running time. Nighy delicately plucks our heartstrings, whether he is stumbling through a booze-sodden jaunt with a sympathetic stranger (Tom Burke) or weathering awkward exchanges with his unsuspecting son (Barney Fishwick) and daughter-in-law (Patsy Ferran). Cinema is most powerful when reality is refracted through a lens. Hermanus’s picture refuses to avert its sympathetic gaze. Life is a series of discomfiting and joyful first takes until some greater power calls “cut”.

– Jo Planter


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