It’s difficult to imagine a more daunting challenge for the modern dramatist than mounting a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, a profound and piercing film widely considered to be one of the master filmmaker’s greatest achievements. Smartly, Living’s screenplay—by British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro—doesn’t seek to rival Kurosawa’s tale so much as to sensitively translate it.
The original is powerfully illustrative of the film’s post-war-Japan setting, but Ikiru’s themes of mortality, individual will and bureaucratic lassitude prove no less potent when shifted to post-war Britain, where unfaltering resolve was a matter of national pride as much as daily decorum. This shift in setting places Living in conversation with Ikiru, drawing thoughtful parallels between the deep stoicism of two stifled societies while reaffirming the universality of the story’s existential query.
Moffie director Oliver Hermanus stages Living as a tribute to mahogany-toned British dramas of the 1950s, all the way through to its classy ‘The End’ closing card. Bill Nighy gives perhaps the performance of his estimable career as Mr. Williams, a lifelong civil servant facing a fatal illness, who resolves to live his final days with the sense of purpose he believes he lost some time ago.
“That Ikiru ever even stood a chance of successfully translating into the James Ivory-esque period piece on display here is a testament to the universality of Kurosawa’s worldview,” writes Robert Quiroz. “That it pulls it off so meaningfully is a testament to Ishiguro’s well-established talent, and Hermanus’s deep potential.” Equally lauded were the film’s supporting performances. “Aimee Lou Wood stands out by far,” asserts Festiville correspondent Ella Kemp in her review, advising audiences to “let the elegance and warmth of this really wash over you”. Rafa Sales Ross agrees that Wood is “endlessly charming” and praises the “always-stellar Tom Burke,” calling both “a treat” to watch. IF