In a luscious and textured remake of Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru, a British bureaucrat (Bill Nighy) questions his life choices after receiving a terminal diagnosis.

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Contemporary World Cinema

Living

Oliver Hermanus

In this exquisitely realized remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru, director Oliver Hermanus teams with Nobel- and Booker Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro to renew a classic.

Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a buttoned-down, pinstripe- and-bowler hat–clad stereotypical English gentleman in 1952, with a mid-level bureaucratic job in a postwar London county council. Through his taciturn manner, Mr. Williams lets his staff (which includes Aimee Lou Wood, Sex Education) know that maintaining the status quo on files is more important than progress.

One day Williams receives a dire diagnosis from his doctor and soon the tightly held reins of his very prosaic life begin to loosen. We discover he is a widower, estranged from his only son, with few friends and fewer interests. Williams realizes that he isn’t facing death; he’s been living it. And so, in the clumsy manner of one who is unpracticed in these things, he begins putting work aside for new experiences. In charmingly awkward sequences, Nighy beautifully captures that specific lead-up to the end of life and the inevitably accompanying questions: did I accomplish anything? Will I leave anything behind?

While the heart of the film is Nighy’s understated lead performance, equally as masterful is the profound sense of time and place created by the craft elements, notably production design by Helen Scott (Mothering Sunday, TIFF ’21; Small Axe) and costume design by the multiple Oscar–winning Sandy Powell. It’s all captured on screen by cinematographer Jamie Ramsay (Mothering Sunday), who deeply impresses with his creation of beautiful images filled with light. Mr. Williams would be pleased.

JANE SCHOETTLE

Screenings

Thu Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Press
7:00pm
Sun Sep 11

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
3:45pm
Mon Sep 12

Scotiabank 1

Regular
5:30pm
Fri Sep 16

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Regular
12:15pm