“Ikiru” is something of an anomaly within Akira Kurosawa’s filmography, trading samurai and Shakespearean power struggles for a more intimate style of human drama. But the story of an ailing bureaucrat confronting his mortality by spending his last few months on Earth building a children’s playground is nevertheless one of the director’s most impactful films. So much so that many cinephiles were bound to see any remake as trespassing on sacred grounds. Still, Kurosawa’s work has inspired many of the most popular films of the past half-century, so “Ikiru” was bound to be remade eventually.
That’s precisely what “Living” attempts to do, reimagining Kurosawa’s beloved story in 1950s London. Bill Nighy takes on the role first played by Takashi Shimura, portraying a man whose stomach cancer causes him to question his long-held cynicism. And while Shimura’s performance in “Ikiru” left him with an impossibly large set of shoes to fill, Nighy has earned strong reviews (and a bit of early Oscar buzz) for his work on the film.
In his review of the film, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote, “Nighy is predictably affecting in the lead role of Mr. Williams, a widowed civil servant so calcified by grief that his younger employees assume that he’s actually incapable of human feeling; if they’re terrified of him in a way that no one ever was of Shimura’s version, it might be owed to the fact that Williams already speaks in the ghoulish whisper of a spirit communicating from beyond the grave.”
In an interview with IndieWire, Nighy spoke about the role’s importance to him and the approach that he took to crafting his own spin on the character.
“It’s not often you get a long role playing someone who’s just simply straightforward and decent,” Nighy said. “In this case, I also approached him as someone who I figured was institutionalized in grief. When his wife died very early on, something was arrested in him.”
“Living” is directed by Oliver Hermanus, with acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro adapting Kurosawa’s original script. In addition to Nighy, the film stars Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Adrian Rawlins, and Tom Burke.
“Living” will be released in theaters on December 23, 2022. You can watch the first teaser below: