Bill Nighy can sure make someone laugh, as seen in films such as “Love Actually” and “Hot Fuzz.” As this film shows, he can also make someone cry.
Nighy stars as Rodney Williams in “Living,” an older man who heads the public works department in London. Williams has fallen into a fairly standard routine, riding the same train to his office and often looking over the same project requests day-by-day.
Early on in the film, Williams visits his doctor and learns of a terminal illness that, at most, gives him six months to live. Looking to make the most out of his life with the time he has left on this Earth, he seeks advice from some younger people and decides to make an impact in at least one way at his place of work.
It’s astounding sometimes how one performance can truly lift an entire film up. Truth be told, “Living” starts a bit slow and there are certainly some lulls here and there. However, Nighy is so extraordinary in the film that he gives a lot of life to what could have been an average, and even stale at times, drama.
The acting veteran gives an amazingly vulnerable and moving performance. One can’t help but be endeared to the man and become emotional because of what he’s going through. Watching him determine what to do with his remaining months, and how to communicate it to others, is compelling.
As are his eventual actions to make a positive change in his surroundings with the time he has left. Through Nighy’s performance, matters of loss, mortality and community add meaning and intrigue to the flick.
It’s the rest of “Living” that’s rather underwhelming. At its best the film is an average dramatic period piece and at its worst, it’s a dull, somewhat procedural picture. This is true with the scenes at Mr. Williams’ office, as well as those featuring his son and daughter-in-law discussing the protagonist’s activities.
Sections of film that lack Nighy’s presence are often less interesting to watch. Additionally, a few sub-plots, such as a potential romance with other characters, seems underdeveloped.
This isn’t to say everything other than Nighy’s performance drags down the film to the point where it’s unenjoyable. Supporting cast members Alex Sharp and Aimee Lou Wood are fine in their roles as two of the younger people who interact with Mr. Williams, for example.
The movie also captures a sort of calm tranquility that the main character begins to live with over the course of the film. The crew’s work to give the picture a softness and tenderness is praiseworthy.
Competently made, “Living” is a C+ to a B- movie with an A+ performance at its center. Nighy gives the movie significant artistic energy, boosting the film’s quality. It’s ultimately an experience worth seeking. 4 out of 5.
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