Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) is familiar to Indian viewers in at least a couple of ways. The Japanese master’s moving drama about a terminally ill bureaucrat who decides to infuse meaning into his final days inspired Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand (1971). While the stuffy bureaucrat in Ikiru decides to loosen up in the autumn of his existence, Mukherjee’s hero goes into the afterlife having spread anand, or happiness, all around. The idea of an individual using humility and persuasion to carry out an act of public service also appears to have left its mark on Rajkumar Hirani, whose films are filled with do-gooders.

An English-language remake of Ikiru is set in 1950s London, more or less the same time frame as Kurosawa’s film. Directed by Oliver Hermanus and based on a script by Japanese-British writer Kazuo Ishiguro, Living turns Kurosawa’s concerns over stifling red-tapism in post-World War II Japan into a nostalgic journey into a more orderly British past. The film is available on the pay-per-view platform BookMyShow Stream.

Being a British production, Living (2022) has access to a raft of acting talent, beginning with the wrinkled hero played by the inimitable Bill Nighy. The 73-year-old actor has been nominated for a best actor Oscar for his quiet and yet impactful performance. Ishiguro too has a nomination in the Writing (Adapted Screenplay) category.

Bill Nighy’s textured voice – one of the many delights of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, in which he portrayed Davy Jones – is put to excellent use in Living. As the file-pushing city council official Williams, Nighy speaks with the kind of hushed authority that is used to being obeyed.

Having learnt that he has only months to live, and encouraged by an encounter with a playwright (Paul Burke) as well as the spark of his young colleague Margaret (Aimee Lou Wood), Williams decides to do something about the stack of files in his office. He goes about it with the same rectitude he had displayed at work – a fine opportunity for Nighy to display his talent for understatement.

Living is considerably shorter than Ikiru, and rushes through Williams’s transformation. The poetics of Kurosawa’s filmmaking is sorely missing, replaced by polite and yet passive-aggressive exchanges in clipped British accents.

The performances make up for the often workmanlike retelling, with Nighy’s presence almost enough to serve as compensation. Even if he doesn’t win the Oscar, his performance surely won’t be forgotten.

Living (2022).