Saturday 9 December 2023

Movie Review: Living (2022)

Genre: Drama
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Starring: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp
Running Time: 102 minutes

Synopsis: In London of the early 1950s, the elderly Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a colorless manager in the labyrinthian County Council government, an unwieldy administrative machine fine-tuned to achieve nothing. At work he leads a small team including newcomer Mr. Wakeling (Alex Sharp) and the bright Miss Harris (Aimee Lou Wood), while at home he lives (but never communicates) with his son and daughter-in-law. After a small group of parents seeking approval for a neighbourhood playground are again stymied by the bureaucracy, Mr. Williams receives a terminal medical diagnosis and decides to make changes in his life.

What Works Well: The remake of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru benefits from excellent production values and a steeped sense of time and place, a fine setting for director Oliver Hermanus to find highlights in sad songs and passage-of-time reflections. This post-war London is smothered by the mechanics of civil administration and the rigidity of behavioural norms, but the next generation (represented by Mr. Wakeling and Miss Harris) is keen to add animation. Bill Nighy is a confirmed picture of repressed gentlemanliness, and Aimee Lou Wood lights a natural spark in his staid world.

What Does Not Work As Well: The pacing is slow on the way to an obvious yet still unconvincing resolution. Discarding lifelong habits is a weighty transformation, only partially earned by Mr. Williams' plodding post-diagnosis awakening.

Conclusion: A flinty shade of grey.

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