The Call Of The Human Spirit: Our Review of ‘Living’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 23, 2023
The Call Of The Human Spirit: Our Review of ‘Living’

Sometimes you don’t know how to live your life…until you see an actual ending for it….

Mining a foreign cinema classic; Living (a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru) allows us to bear witness to a performance that is quiet, understated and dripping with literal genius in this story that reminds us of how the non-stop nature of life can occasionally get away from us if we’re not paying attention.

An ordinary man (Bill Nighy), reduced by years of oppressive office routine to a shadow existence, makes a supreme effort to turn his dull life into something wonderful when he gets the news of his failing health.

It’s rare that a film with such restraint can feel so…epic, but that’s what we get here with Living as it understands the social restraints of the time but embraces the ever yearning spirit of the human condition.

You may know director Oliver Hermanus from his criminally underrated 2019 film Moffie; however here in tackling the work of a master like Akira Kurosawa (with screenwriter collaborator Kazuo Ishiguro) what they’ve done is nothing short of remarkable as the idea of remaking a classic, into ANOTHER classic that manages to stand on its own two feet is something that has simply never been done before.

With a glossy high sheen to a world that moves faster than most of us can keep up with we understand how people can get run over and forgotten in a go-go world that is built to seemingly go faster and faster.  It’s also understandably easy to get caught up in it all too and as this story unfolds we really get a sense of the importance of legacy in our lives in order to give it meaning, and how we tend to only think of these things when our time on this planet is running out.

Hermanus allows the visual style of the film to affirm the crux of the entire narrative; this is a story about that search for what it means to truly be alive.  At the beginning of it all when we meet Nighy’s character we see someone who just exists in the background of his life but as he gets his bad news about his health, his character doesn’t change with any dramatic flourishes but with a genuine intent on trying to leave some kind of mark on a life that all of a sudden feels rather unremarkable.

Bill Nighy delivers the performance of his career here as our man Williams who finds himself at a crossroads he never expected for himself.  He wears it all with dignity and Nighy finds something truly and remarkably humanistic at the core of this character as he gives audiences that perfect blend of familiarity but with that genuine emotional level of discovery that the man goes through.  It’s truly a performance in the face and in the eyes, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.  Aimee Lou Wood gives us a glimmer as the young office girl who befriends Williams right in the moment that he needed to find purpose once again.

Living might seem quiet on the surface, but at its core it’s the call of the human spirit itself and its never ending quest to be relevant in a universe that is far bigger than any of us can genuinely comprehend.

  • Release Date: 1/20/2023
This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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