“Life” is Bill Nighy’s finest hour, and deserves an Oscar love

of the moment The opening credits begin rolling over an overhead view of Piccadilly Circus in London, in all its mid-20th century glory, by Oliver Hermanus living It takes you to a bygone era of Britain. Or, to be more specific, a lost heyday of British cinema, when names like Powell and Pressburger were synonymous with levity and dynamism, Ealing’s comedies sold a vision of post-war England that yielded both stiff lips and smiles, and films like Brief interview pit emotional repression against raging passion. Old streak, slightly washed-out tint of color, old-school score for a contemporary London orchestra—there are a few moments when you wonder if this film has recently been discovered gathering dust in a basement, some lost artifact that predates even its source material.

It can happen Ekiru, Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 drama about a bureaucrat dying of cancer who hopes to leave behind one last kindness before getting rid of this deadly file. It has long been considered an exceptional case in the director’s career (it was made after the breakthrough Rashomon But before the samurai epics that cemented his reputation in the West (as quiet as those action movies are), he’s now recognized as a classic. However, the film is so connected to aspects of Japanese salary culture of the era that the idea of ​​rehashing it and relaying it seems counterintuitive. How do you make this work? And how do you escape the shadow of Takashi Shimura’s performance as the terminally ill everyman, using one last chance to experience the pleasures and sorrows of the life you’re already living?

We’ll start with the first: You feed this story into an equally specific social landscape, one with its stifling set of rules for ways to behave, things to be left unsaid, and emotions to be quelled or quelled in the name of civility. It turns out that Britain in the early 1950s fit beautifully into the law — who would have guessed, besides the Brits who lived during that time period, almost anyone else? (As some philosopher who called this country home once said: “Clinging on in quiet despair / Is the English way.”) The story is conveyed well enough to remain somewhat the same, with a civil servant named Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) discovering He has about six months to live. He indulges in a night of drunken revelry with Resort Roe (Tom Burke) and spends the afternoon in the company of a young woman, Margaret (Amy Lou Wood), who has been working with him. Williams managed to get a long-running pitch proposal, which was mired in red tape, passed. Then our guy comes out, stage left.

However, the trick that Hermanus and his crew pull off the top notch isn’t just appointment living In the UK last year but you feel like you’re watching something In fact game Set in a British theater in 1952. The old Golden Age credits sequence is just the tip of the ancient iceberg, and it’s possible to simply enjoy the Time Machine style of it all. The South African director loves visionary shots and geometric patterns, which makes several of the installations—particularly a shot of passengers walking over a railway bridge as train tracks criss-cross the screen diagonally below them—worthy of hanging on museum walls. Sandy Powell’s costumes and Helen Scott’s production design don’t so much evoke a bygone era as recreate it. Jimmy Ramsay’s cinematography is somehow lush and stark. Bits of color contrast with loads of charcoal gray and black stripes, while shades can brighten up a space or brighten a workspace. It’s odd to call the script “elegant,” but that’s the first word that comes to mind regarding the contributions of writer Sir Kazuo Ishiguro — the Nobel Prize-winning novelist has an impeccable ear for the speech patterns in films of the period and the way words can illuminate or obscure .

All this would make this drama a perfect example of its meticulously reconstructed MovieA movie, if that’s the only thing you offer. These items are also in service of aiding and abetting performance, which is what really makes it living Vital and not to be missed. Bill Nighy has been a steady working actor since the late 1980s, and possesses the kind of presence that he could adapt himself to in respected British TV series and Pirates of the Caribbean Login. You need to be brave or Silly, UK department, you call a nigga. Even those who hate Really love I admit it’s the most buoyant, funniest and messy part of it.

Much of Mr. Williams’ withdrawn and closed-mindedness is reflected by other people’s impressions at first: Wakeling (Alex Sharp), the young office novice who looks at the older man with awe; Other co-workers in their department. son Williams (Barney Fishwick) and daughter-in-law (Patsy Ferran), eager to acquire the family home; Margaret, who looks at him with both affection and concern; and the Boho Pork Fly, who takes Williams’ meds off his hands, then takes him out for a night on the town. He can be majestic or aloof, untouchable or pathetic, reprehensible or fatherly – it depends on who he’s talking to at any given moment.


Bill Nighy in Oliver Hermanus’ Living

Sony Pictures classics

However, it is Nighy who inevitably begins to gently guide us through Williams’ inner life of quiet desperation, verging on utter silence, and that’s when you become fully aware of what an amazing actor he really is. At one point, there’s a quick series of flashbacks involving youth, compromise and loss, that aren’t counterpointed by anything but the actor’s reactions; Every little movement in his expression moves you along the line of his memories. It lets you know how hard it is to open that one up, how far the curtain is drawn or how small they are in each scene. Nighy can let Williams blow his declining condition out of socially acceptable politeness (“that bore” is the description he uses for the diagnosis) or he can gently rage against a dying light without giving up the game. He can make a tiny flick of a smile look like a ray of sunshine, or he can turn a drunken rendition of a Scottish folk song into something heartbreaking. Keep tissues on hand for this sequence.

And it is the star itself that rises more than decoration and changing the cultural landscape living From the world of a remake to something much deeper. It’s become yet another story of a man finally learning how to embrace the world, but one that’s utterly fundamental and devastating, yes, even life-affirming on its own. The performance pushes it further. By the time the movie honors by replication EkiruThe most iconic shot of an old man on a swing, fully alive for the first time, Nighy makes it feel like the gesture’s been earned. It’s a testament to the strength of a “small” man, doing a “small” thing that benefits those he leaves behind. Even more surprising, for the talent of one giant actor, is turning something into something less into something so much more.

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