Many wonder what their legacy will be, what it is that we will leave behind. For our Editor it will almost definitely be a constantly damp bar stool seat at The Nag’s Head (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed) but for others it will be much more. In the midst of living we are dying and for Williams (Bill Nighy) a reserved, softly spoken and strait laced council bureaucrat he’s always been dead he just doesn’t realise it as he aimlessly shuffles paper, pushing files from one department or another and if he’s not doing that he’s neatly popping it onto an ever bigger pile of other files. Williams is not living a life and director Oliver Hermanus co-writes with Kazuo Ishiguro a remake of the classic Akira Kurosawa film, ‘Ikiru’. know just how to show it. They have relocated their film to 1953 London and a brilliant title sequence sets the era well and we meet Williams at the same time as new office employee Wakeling (Alex Sharp) where they work in a claustrophobically small office with several other colleagues all processing files and enforcing red tape.
It will all change for Williams when his diagnosis of stomach cancer leaves him with only maybe a year to live and perhaps like anyone he embarks on a night of debauchery on a drink fuelled night in an attempt to live life to the full. But that is not really him and he knows it and quickly comes to realise that he has no legacy, nothing of any consequence whatsoever. He’s entranced by a young secretary Margaret (Aimee Lou Wood) who he forms a platonic friendship and the mildest of infatuations and finds himself inspired by her get up and go as she leaves the staid office for better things and bigger dreams. It’s to that end that he decides to help a group of young mums who have been pressing the council for several years to build a small playground for their children on a derelict estate. It becomes Williams mission to get that done before his time runs out and he goes about it with a zeal that surprises his colleagues.
It’s a slight tale but the theme is huge best summed up by Williams asking, ‘To what ends do you direct your daily efforts?’ At the centre of it all is a towering career best performance by Bill Nighy and a uniformly excellent cast and Living is an exquisite and profoundly moving film that will stay in the mind long after the film has finished. It’s quite possibly the best film we’ve seen this year.
We chatted with with director Oliver Harmanus about the making of the film…..