Oliver Hermanus' 'Living' in San Francisco Landmark Theatres

By Moira Jean Sullivan
 © Sony Pictures Classics

Living is a finely crafted film set in England in the 1950s by South African director Oliver Hermanus based on Ikiru (To Live),  a film made in 1952 by Akira Kurosawa inspired by a novella by Leo Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886).

The British version of Living in full regalia is now in San Francisco Landmark Theatres written by Nobel prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro with rights granted by the Kurosawa estate. Ishiguro who has seen Ikiru many times before fused his own memories of Britain’s pre-and post-War culture in this latest production.

The setting is an England being rebuilt after the war and focuses on the efforts of the government planning department to renew the façade and structures of London.

Aimee Lee Wood and Bill Nighy  © Sony Pictures Classics

Bill Nighy plays veteran civil servant Williams, a bureaucrat in a city department. He is head of a small team commuting to London by train on weekdays in crisp pressed suits, black bowlers or fedoras, with wood handled walking sticks. Nighy is excellent in the role of this quiet no fuss civil servant with impeccable manners and smooth diction. Recently nominated for a Golden Globe he is sure to get an Oscar nod. On Williams' team is the young Margaret Harris who has decided to get another job as an assistant manager in a local bistro in a pivotal role played by British actress Aimee Lee Wood.

© Sony Pictures Classics

A group of women have visited Williams' department more than once to request that a children’s playground be built in a rundown building with an enclosed courtyard. The proposal gets kicked upstairs and downstairs to various departments. When Williams learns from his doctor that he has a terminal illness, the quality of his last days becomes a driving force. How he chooses to spend his remaining days with his family, co-workers or trying to flee it all to Brighton’s seaside is brilliantly shown. He takes another look at that playground. 

The technical choices made by Oliver Hermanus in Living are executed by an outstanding crew. Post war England is beautifully shot by cinematographer Jamie D. Ramsay within the magnificent expanse of a 1950’s London. The production design is priceless and hand-crafted by Academy award nominated Helen Scott as well as the stunning costume design by three time Academy Award winner Sandy Powell who worked on Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986),  Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992) and Yorgos Lanthimos The Favorite (2018). The distinguished crew also includes Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch who did film scoring and excellent editing by Chris Wyatt who has worked on fantastic films such as Ammonite (2020) and Supernova (2020.

Living is a moving and inspirational testimony to life lived to the fullest,  and is a brilliant first class film experience.   

© 2023 © Moira Sullivan - Date: 01/14/23
Movie Magazine International