Death is a part of life. The longer we live, the more people around us will die; and it is important for us to accept this reality. However, regardless of how omnipresent death is in human existence, we don’t understand it very well, and philosophers and theologians have vigorous debates about human mortality and what it means to be a human being living and dying on this planet.
The argument about whether there is, in fact, an afterlife has by itself spawned a whole genre of non- fiction books and thinkers like Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who have thriving careers, allowing them to establish a presence not only in print and on TV, but online as well.
Cinema has attempted to tackle these issues numerous times over the years. Sometimes they do it well, as in movies like City of Angels, Sixth Sense and Ghost, or sometimes poorly, in movies like Ghost Dad and Casper.
Thankfully, 2022 has provided us with one of the better films in a movie called Living, which deals with the trials and tribulations of Mr. Williams, a quiet, uptight, elderly British civil servant who discovers early
in the film that he has terminal cancer. Throughout the film, Williams searches for ways to bring meaning to his remaining days and to inject joy into a life, which has been a rather bland, uninspiring affair. He begins by forging a platonic relationship with a young secretary in his office and then building a playground for local youngsters.
Based on the 1952 film Ikiru, directed by Akira Kurosawa, which was in turn based on a novel by Leo Tolstoy, Living features a screenplay by Nobel Prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, with a wonderful performance by Bill Nighy as Mr. Williams.
Nighy is an English actor known for his work on stage, receiving a nomination for a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance in Blue/Orange in 2001. His breakout role in film was in Love Actually (2003) which earned him a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was followed by a series of stand-out roles in such films as the Pirates of the Caribbean series (2006-2007), the Underworld film series (2003-2009), The Constant Gardner (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), and, finally, Living (2022) which has earned him his first career Academy Award nomination.
Other notable actors in the film are Amy Lou Wood (Sex Education, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) as the secretary, Ms. Margret Harris, and Alex Sharpe (The Hustle, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Peter Walking, a much younger civil servant who is seeking to change the system from within.
Set in 1953, the movie does a good job of showing just how repressed and unbearably formal Britain was directly after World War II.
This film touched me, and while it is quite sad, it is also quite uplifting. It is a film that is both humanistic and kind, while at the same time heartbreakingly sad and poignant.
I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this film. I give it two thumbs up.