TIFF 22 review: Bill Nighy’s glorious performance in ‘LIVING’ sends a universal message of love and kindness.

LIVING

Director Oliver Hermanus brings TIFF22 audiences LIVING, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru. This beautifully life-affirming script from Nobel- and Booker Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro captures the heart. The legendary Bill Nighy helms this film as Mr. Williams. A typical mid-level government bureaucrat in 1952, Williams never ruffles any feathers and maintains a routine to the point of soulless monotony. After he receives a terminal diagnosis, he must reassess his years of playing by the rules and learn how to begin living.

Alex Sharp is Peter Wakeling, the newest member of Mr. Williams’ team. He is the audience’s lens through which to observe Nighy’s reputation. His ability to understand the bigger picture showcases Sharp’s talents. He is simply lovely here. Aimee Lou Woods plays Nighy’s spirited office mate, Margaret Harris. Her young enthusiasm and gentle nature present an intriguing foil for Nighy. Woods displays a wide-eyed honesty that gives way to genuine companionship. She becomes a shoulder to cry on and a replacement for his estranged son. Their chemistry is a delight. 

Bill Nighy gives a quietly profound performance as Mr. Williams. Each beat overflows with complexity, regrets, and thoughtfulness. Nighy breathes life into this role with passing moments. His heartfelt rendition of the Scottish folk song Rowan Tree moved me to tears. It is an award-worthy turn.

A community playground becomes the symbol of a life worth living. An apology for the inconvenience, an offer of assistance, and a kind word; the impact of these seemingly small gestures have a ripple effect. The structure of the script is surprising and relentlessly engaging. I found myself lost in the quiet dignity of it all. 

The sumptuous score from Emelie Levienaise – Farrouch is enveloping. Beautifully framed and lit cinematography from Jamie Ramsey suits this story perfectly. I felt the final shot in my gut.

LIVING is not a boisterous film. It is a story that makes you want to be a better person. It is a lesson in human connection, mutual respect, and taking a breath to enjoy each moment. LIVING speaks volumes about leaving a legacy of kindness.


United Kingdom, 2022
English
CANADIAN PREMIERE
102 minutes
Director
Oliver Hermanus
Cast
Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Tom Burke
Cinematography
Jamie D. Ramsay
Editing
Chris Wyatt
Producers
Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen
Production Company
Number 9 Films
Production Designer
Helen Scott
Screenplay
Kazuo Ishiguro


About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.