Journey deep into life’s meaning with “Living”

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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Captivating our hearts this week at Tryon Theatre is “Living,” a beautifully heartfelt and poignant work of art. 


“Living” is directed by Oliver Hermanus, a South African director with a talent for telling intimate and empathetic stories. At the center of the story is Rodney Williams, an aging British bureaucrat, who is a man of routine and quiet resolution. The monotony of William’s life is soon interrupted by an unexpected development, after which he finds himself questioning the meaning of his life. 

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Breathing humanity into the protagonist’s role is Bill Nighy, who has made it a hallmark of his late career to play deep and kind individuals, men with complex interior lives, doing their best to understand a world that does not reward their sensitivity. 


Rodney Williams is arguably the zenith of Nighy’s archetype, and Nighy’s performance of this character will definitely enrapture the hearts of the audience. 


The film is an adaptation of “Ikiru,” an acclaimed 1952 film from Japan’s most celebrated director, Akira Kurosawa. “Living” transplants the narrative of its inspiration from Tokyo to London, but does so with great fidelity. In adapting “Ikiru”’s story to early ‘50s England, the heralded writing talents of Kazuo Ishiguro (a Japanese-born and British-raised novelist/screenwriter) are employed to effective and powerful ends. Additionally, both films are ultimately adaptations of an 1886 Tolstoy novella. 


The applicability of Tolstoy’s original story for both Kurosawa’s 1952 audience and Hermanus’ 2022 audience speaks to a universal relevance in the sentiments expressed and the questions asked. The pursuit of life’s meaning and the desire for emotional fulfillment are understood by every member of society and are similarly out of reach for most of society. In exploring these foundational questions of humanity, “Living” should appeal to adults of any age, to anyone who has asked themselves if they are fully living. 


This is a deeply emotional and thoughtful film but is remarkably gentle and composed. You will feel sadness, but you will also feel compassion and joy. “Living” rewards the viewer for opening their heart to Rodney’s story. The importance of living well, of living with intention, and with generosity, will remain in your heart long after you have seen the film. We hope to share this loving emotional journey with you!