starring: bill nighy, aimee lou wood, alex sharp, and tom burke
REVIEWER: lyall carter
In 1950s London, a humorless civil servant decides to take time off work to experience life after receiving a grim diagnosis.
1953. A London shattered by WWII is still recovering. Williams (Bill Nighy), a veteran civil servant, is an important cog within the city’s bureaucracy as it struggles to rebuild. Buried under paperwork at the office, lonely at home, his life has long felt empty and meaningless. Then a shattering medical diagnosis forces him to take stock – and to try and grasp fulfilment before it goes beyond reach. Then one evening he is struck by a revelation – one as simple as it is profound – and with a new energy, and the help of Peter (Alex Sharp), an idealistic new recruit to his department, he sets about creating a legacy for the next generation.
I have always and will always love Bill Nighy as an actor but also, through my interactions with him (too long of a story to go into here), as a human being. And while he will probably always be remembered for his role as Billy Mack in the Christmas classic Love Actually, actually Living should be remembered as the pinnacle of his career.
Living is a rare breed of film that transcends mere entertainment, becoming an ode and meditation on the meaning of life that will have you musing on for weeks to come. An incredibly beautiful work of art with one of the best acting performances from Bill Nighy that you are ever likely to witness. The best film of 2023.
I could write for days about everything that I love about Living. But at the core of it all, is how the film was crafted. You’re never instructed how to think or feel about what’s going on in the narrative, director Oliver Hermanus surprises with the emotive beats of the piece, leaving the audience with much to think over and to feel.
And in doing so, the emotive weight of the story hits you so much harder, the themes stay with you longer as you’re not given the typical Hollywood conclusion. I cry very easily in films, but it is very rare for me to sob. I was an utter mess at the end of the film, sobbing uncontrollably.
As well as being because of the way in which the film was beautifully crafted, it's also down to Nighy’s performance. It’s incredibly understated and also deliberate, the pain of having to hide his true feelings for years, and the joy of doing something for others, the change in his character, is so beautifully nuanced and never overplayed. Truly masterful.
Living is a rare breed of film that transcends mere entertainment, becoming an ode and meditation on the meaning of life that will have you musing on it for weeks to come. An incredibly beautiful work of art with one of the best acting performances from Bill Nighy that you are ever likely to witness. The best film of 2023.