Acclaimed character actor Bill Nighy has earned his first Oscar nomination for his lead performance in Oliver Hermanus’ Living, a retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru set in 1950s London. Nighy more than deserves the nomination. This isn’t a case of his peers tipping their hats to his legacy of work. The role of Williams, an intimidating yet reclusive boss who learns about a critical health diagnosis giving him six months to live, is a change of pace for Nighy. He absolutely meets the challenge with a performance that’s melancholic and reflective, providing the film with a satisfying albeit tragic arc.
Hermanus’ movie itself though (working with a ordinary script by Kazuo Ishiguro, who has also earned an Oscar nomination) is stiff and, otherwise, goes through the motions of an ideal “crowd-pleasing drama” with no real interest driving it. Living is a movie that very much relies on its leading cast to carry the emotion of its story. When characters leave, the audience feels the void and the film doesn’t distract us away from what we’re missing; especially during the final act which should have every viewer fully invested.
Because I feel Ishiguro’s writing and Hermanus direction could’ve brought more to the table, I also feel disappointed that the film’s period aesthetics (the costume design, make-up, hair styling, and production design) were ignored by the Academy Awards. These factors have much more resonance and elevate plain blueprints provided by Hermanus and Ishiguro.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
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