Living Parent Guide
This is a quiet, thoughtful film that is brought to life thanks to brilliant acting.
Parent Movie Review
Rodney Williams (Bill Nighy) leads a life of stultifying conformity and monotony. Each day, clad in his dark suit and bowler hat, he boards the train for London and his job shuffling paper for the public works department. Each evening, he returns to the home he shares with his son and shrewish daughter-in-law. The pattern continues until his doctor gives bad news: Williams has inoperable cancer and only six months to live.
The shock of this diagnosis forces Williams to assess his life and he comes to some depressing conclusions. Realizing that he has never really lived, he empties half of his bank account, goes AWOL from work, and sets off to the seaside for some fun. When “wine, women, and song” don’t fill the emptiness in his heart, Williams takes another look at himself. He discovers that he craves the vivacity of his young employee, Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood) and that he needs a sense of meaning in his work. No longer will he be content to put off decisions and hoard files: he’s going to make a difference in the world before he dies.
There’s no question that the best part of this film is Bill Nighy. The legendary British thespian brings all his skill to this role, imbuing Williams with a quiet, dignified melancholy. He perfectly embodies the “stiff upper lip” so beloved of the British and raises repression to an art form. His introspection successfully comes across on screen and his changes in behavior and habits are completely believable.
The ensemble cast also rise to the occasion. Williams dies partway through the film and the rest of his story is told through the lives of the people around him. There are some genuinely touching moments, but a few clunkers where the script isn’t as good as the cast. At times the dialogue feels forced; as if it were written to emphasize the point the screenwriter is making and not like it springs organically from the character. This feels inauthentic and breaks the sense of immersion that is key to really living a film instead of just watching it.
As for negative content, it’s fairly limited and the movie comes in at a low PG-13 level. Some adults smoke, but that was historically accurate in the 1950s, and there are multiple episodes of heavy drinking and intoxication. There is also a scene involving a stripper, but there is no explicit nudity and she is only visible from the back when she removes her bra. The absence of violence and profanity is certainly a welcome change given their ubiquity in almost every other film produced this year.
Living isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s quiet and thoughtful and is devoid of action pieces. It’s about a man who finally recognizes the walls that constrain his life and who has the courage to knock them down. Since this doesn’t involve superpowers it might not gain a lot of traction with mass audiences, but viewers who want to cheer on a man who changes his own world will appreciate Bill Nighy’s take on that important work.
Directed by Oliver Hermanus. Starring Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release January 27, 2023. Updated January 28, 2023
Watch the trailer for Living
Rating & Content Info
Why is Living rated PG-13? Living is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some suggestive material and smoking.
Violence: There are references to a man’s death from illness. There’s a veiled reference to suicidal thoughts but they are not acted upon. Blood is briefly visible on a sick man’s handkerchief.
Sexual Content: One scene takes place in a tent that features exotic dancers. They are scantily clad and gyrate suggestively before one removes her bra and throws it into the crowd: the scene is shot from behind so only her back is visible.
Profanity: There were a couple of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults smoke cigarettes, as was historically accurate. There are frequent scenes of a main character and others drinking alcohol and sometimes becoming intoxicated.
Page last updated January 28, 2023
Living Parents' Guide
How does Rodney Williams’ diagnosis change his life? What does he realize about how his life got off track? What does he do that gives him a sense of meaning? Why doesn’t Williams tell his son about his diagnosis: is he protecting his son or himself?
If you only had six months to live, what changes would you make in your life? What would your priorities be? What kind of bucket list would you have?
Related home video titles:
Fans of Bill Nighy have lots of films to choose from. In Sometimes Always Never, Nighy plays a father grieving a son who is missing and feared dead. He becomes a frustrated senior citizen seeking a cheap retirement in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Nighy delivers an excellent performance in the otherwise agonizing divorce movie, Hope Gap. He plays yet another reserved character in The Bookshop. With an excellent ensemble cast, Nighy appears in Valkyrie, a film about an attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Nighy takes an uncharacteristic role as Davy Jones. His talents take a comic turn as the fussy, hypochondriac father in Emma., the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel.
There are other films about characters who find a new focus after a terminal diagnosis. In The Bucket List, two cancer patients decide to spend their final months fulfilling their dreams. Queen Latifah stars in Last Holiday as a retail employee who is told she will soon die of a brain tumor. She decides to spend her savings on a dream vacation at an exotic hotel in Europe.