David at the movies: A small life – a big impact


This little gem of a movie is scripted (adapting a Japanese story) by Kashuo Ishiguro who gave us The Remains of the Day thirty years ago. Living is set in the 1950s. Mr. Williams (in those days men called each other “Mister” on the commuter train and in the office) manages a section of the planning offices at London’s County Hall where shuffling papers seems to be the order of the day. A widower living with his buttoned-up son and bitchy daughter-in-law, Mr. Williams is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and decides to try and “live a bit” in the time he has left. A strip-club in Brighton turns out not to be his cup of tea, and he goes back to London and finds a small project to invest his time and energy in. He also befriends a girl working in a Lyons Corner House (Aimee Lou Wood) – an awkward platonic relationship that has echoes of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in The Remains of the Day.

Bill Nighy is perfectly cast as Williams, a man of his time painfully incapable of expressing his emotions. The script and the direction (Oliver Hermanus) beautifully capture the austerity and self-restraint of postwar Britain. This is a splendid evocation of a desperately ordinary man whose small life has an important impact on other people’s lives, including ours, the viewers. Less is more – much more.

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