LIVING – movie review


Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Screenwriter: Kazuo Ishiguro, Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Bill Nighy, Alex Sharp, Adrian Rawlins, Hubert Burton, Oliver Chris, Michael Cochrane, Anant Varman, Aimee Lou Wood
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 12/4/22
Opens: December 23, 2022

Do you ever wonder what clothing people will wear 50 years from now? A hundred years? You can be sure that what you wear today not be in fashion decades from now. If you calculate from, say, the Victorian age, when women took on layers upon layers of clothing, went to the beach covering virtually their entire bodies, you might predict that in 2070 we will put on unisex clothing, perhaps similar to what we think Martians are wearing today.

Absurd clothing fashions decorated bodies as recently as 1950, when men both in the U.S. and in the UK wore silly hats. Fedoras in our country and maybe fedoras in London. Vests were de rigueur, pocket watches in trousers. Double-breasted suits which seem to have gone the way of hula hoops. As Oliver Hermanus directs Bill Nighy and his colleagues in this 1952 remake of Kurosawa’s 1952 classic “Ikiru,” clothing reflects the repression of the conservative but prosperous fifties.

Can you believe today that when men and women went on dates, they continued to call each other Mr. and Mrs.? Nowadays even the use of Ms has given way to calling people, even your bosses, simply with their first names. Repression is on display in “Living,” with Bill Nighy’s representation of Williams, a low-level boss with a handful of subordinates working in a government office in London. This is the kind of bureaucratic job that should not have required suits and ties since no customers visited, but there you go. Stuffy stuffy stuffy. The job requires a veritable skyscraper of documents, the kind that offices are decorated with two boxes, “in” and “out” on every worker’s desk, and which you would be advised not to go through the material too quickly lest you work yourself out of a job.

When Williams learns from his doctor that he has six months to live, he makes up his mind to spend his final months away from what has repressed him for so long. What does he do? He goes with a new, young friend to night clubs, strip joints really. He plays the one-armed bandits. Soon enough he realizes that this is not going to fire his imagination for even his limited lifeline, and he opts to do something meaningful for once in his life. But what he chooses is not what you might think he’d go for. He doesn’t take a trip around the world or even get to know the rest of the UK, which he could have done since he takes a train every workday anyway. He dates a young woman in his section—no he doesn’t think of it as a date and neither does the much younger woman he befriends. In fairness let’s leave his choice as a surprise to entice you to see this film. Suffice it to say that you will have seen Bill Nighy in a role he was meant for .

102 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+