“Living” is a beautiful tale from Sony Picture Classics that deserves recognition on the 2022 awards circuit. Adapted from Japanese director Akira Kurasawa’s 1952 film “Ikiru,” director Oliver Hermanus substitutes London for Japan, specifically a post World War II London in the 1950s.

The new setting is fertile ground for screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro, who instills the spirit of the original film while bringing new flavors to the story. Bill Nighy delivers a career-best performance as Mr. Williams, a man going through life on autopilot until he receives a terminal diagnosis of stomach cancer at his doctor’s office.

Mr. Williams is a man of stiff posture and emotional restraint, and he hardly reacts when he learns of his prognosis. Mr. Williams has spent two decades working in Public Works department where he’s never missed a day of work. Now, Mr. Williams is seeking life outside the office and interacting with strangers in ways he never would have attempted prior to being terminally ill.

The most impactful thread of the film is the blossoming relationship between Mr. Williams and his co-worker Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood). Wood more than holds her own with Nighy on screen, and that warmth and spark of life touches Mr. Williams.

The film comes in at one hour and forty minutes which is significantly shorter than the original film,“Ikiru,” but no less impactful. Nighy brings a delightful nuance to this role, slowly allowing Mr. Williams’ closed off shell to open as his time on Earth races to a close.

Nighy won the acting prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and he’s likely to earn one of the five Best Actor slots when Oscar nominations are revealed. Despite the dark and dreary films that seem to consume all the awards season press, “Living” goes against the grain and should be seen by every voter.

The artistry in the film goes beyond Hermanus’ direction, and one cannot overstate the fine work of Sandy Powell’s costume design, the production design of Helen Scott, the score of composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, or Jamie Ramsay’s cinematography.

“Living” is a fresh breath of air arriving late in the season with a powerful message, carefully crafted performances, and below the talent artisans working at their best possible level.

Letter Grade: A-

About The Author

Founder, Awards Editor

Byron Burton is the Awards Editor and Chief Critic at Awards Focus and a National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award winning journalist for his work at The Hollywood Reporter.

Byron is a voting member of the Television Academy, Critics Choice Association, and the Society of Composers & Lyricists (the SCL) for his work on Marvel's X-Men Apocalypse (2016). Working as a journalist and moderator, Byron hosts Emmy and Oscar panels for the major studios, featuring their Below The Line and Above The Line nominees (in partnership with their respective guilds).

Moderating highlights include Ingle Dodd's "Behind the Slate" Screening Series and their "Spotlight Live" event at the American Legion in Hollywood. Byron covered the six person panel for Universal's "NOPE" as well as panels for Hulu's "Pam & Tommy Lee" and "Welcome to Chippendales" and HBO Max's "Barry" and "Euphoria."

For songwriters and composers, Byron is a frequent moderator for panels with the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) as well as The ArcLight's Hitting the High Note Oscar series.

Byron's panels range from FX's Fargo to Netflix's The Crown, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher & Bridgerton; HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Hacks, Succession, Insecure, & Lovecraft Country; Amazon Studios' The Legend of Vox Machina, Wild Cat, & Annette; and Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, Bad Sisters, and 5 Days at Memorial.

In February of 2020, Byron organized and hosted the Aiding Australia Initiative; launched to assist in the restoration and rehabilitation of Australia's wildlife (an estimated 3 billion animals killed or maimed and a landmass the size of Syria decimated).

Participating talent for Aiding Australia includes Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jeremy Renner, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Josh Brolin, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, JK Simmons, Tobey Maguire, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Tim Allen, Colin Hay, Drew Struzan, and Michael Rosenbaum.

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