If you were given six months to live what would you do? Would you throw caution to the wind and go with what’s in your heart instead of what is in your head? Would you tell those close to you regarding your impending fate or keep it to yourself? One never realizes how quickly life goes by until it’s too late to live with exuberance.
In a luscious and textured remake of Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru, a British bureaucrat (Bill Nighy) questions his life choices after receiving a terminal diagnosis. Through his taciturn manner, Mr. Williams lets his staff know that maintaining the status quo on files is more important than progress.
However, his ideology take a turn upon receiving a dire diagnosis allowing his tightly held reins of a very uninspired life to loosen up. Realizing that he isn’t facing death, but has rather been living it, Williams begins putting work aside for new experiences pondering if he indeed accomplished anything? Will he leave anything of significance behind?
Bill Nighy is a exquisitely understated with his portrayal of Mr. Williams. His charm allows one to witness his infatuation for Margaret (Aimee Lou Reed) without the judgement placed on older men with younger women. We simply realize that she is inspiring him to see the glass half full instead of half empty, while shifting his perspective on life when you know your time and interactions are limited.
The dignity in which Aimee Lou Reed inhabits Aimee is poignant during a scene with his son where he asks if his father knew he was dying. That moment where she doesn’t utter one single word while exuding empathy without being condescending is beyond powerful.
While the heart of the film is Nighy’s layered performance, equally as masterful is the profound sense of time and place created by the craft elements, notably production design by Helen Scott and costume design by Sandy Powell with it all being captured by cinematographer Jamie Ramsay.
The opening and closing shot of Mr. Williams on a swing – then slowly shifting to kids playing nearby and being calling in by their mothers is poignant and heartwarming. The solitary moment is a reminder that it’s the simple things in life that bring the most joy and are the memories cherished the most.