Bill Nighy got a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his turn in Living as an introverted English businessman who gets a piece of bad news that transforms him—in realistic, soft spoken and moving ways.
This sort of movie has been done before in a melodramatic, hammer-over-the-head style to hit you with a “message” about living life to the fullest and all that crap.
Here, however, director Oliver Hermanus works with Nighy to make this a sweet film that is far from saccharine. The “message” is delivered in a way that feels grounded, as if we’re watching something real.
Nighy works wonders as Williams, a 1950s desk worker heading up a team of administrators who specialize in stalling projects and basically doing nothing. He’s not disliked by his co-workers, but his stoicism comes off as a bit intimidating, resulting in everybody basically staying in their own corners. The workplace is a somber, stifled slog.
Aimee Lou Wood as Margaret, one of Williams’ more spirited co-workers, delivers one of 2022’s most underrated performances as a confidant and friend to Williams as he tries to venture out and emerge from his shell. Nighy and Wood have some great scenes together, resulting in one of the year’s most appealing screen duos. It’s not a romantic relationship, but their lack of romance is kind of romantic.
I was somewhat surprised when I found out Living is a loose remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952); it qualifies as one of the more successful, and unique, cinematic remakes on record.
I’d consider Nighy the dark-horse candidate in the Oscar race. (Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser are the frontrunners.) What he does here is good enough to stun the world on Oscar night—even though that probably won’t happen.