At a festival where the selection comprises exclusive premieres, Living stands out as a rare exception, having already graced the screen at Sundance earlier this year. This adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru transposes its Japanese setting to the resilient post-World War II London; it’s a delicious film where Bill Nighy delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career.
An ageing civil servant, Williams (Nighy) at the core of Living. Having spent his life ensnared in bureaucratic routines, he’s jolted by the devastating news of his imminent mortality. This revelation prompts a profound reevaluation of his life, relationships and the legacy he yearns to bequeath.
Williams walks the tightrope between the stoicism of the traditional English gentleman and the vulnerable human grappling with his mortality. He chooses to surround himself with younger, spirited individuals, seeking to recapture the vitality he lost with his wife’s passing. Despite the weight of the narrative, there is an underlying charm to the film.
Living deftly navigates the inner workings of the public works department, embodied by Williams’s bustling office and his interactions with colleagues. Among them is Peter Wakeling (Alex Sharp), whose optimism becomes emblematic of post-war Britain’s aspirations and contrasts starkly with the office’s desolation.
The building project that becomes Williams’s saving grace – the transformation of a war-torn site into a children’s playground – echoes the collective yearning of a nation rebuilding itself. It’s a testament to human resilience, of finding purpose amid life’s routine and its unpredictability.
Living is more than a reimagining; it’s a love letter to life itself, with all its intricacies and surprises. A wonderful little film that grows on the viewer, leaving a lasting imprint, thanks to its understated narration and compelling performances, particularly by Nighy. It stands as a poignant reminder of the impermanence of existence and the beauty of truly living. This delightful cinematic experience will surely leave audiences enamoured.
Living is released nationwide on 4th November 2022.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.