3/10 In 1886 Leo Tolstoy’s Russian novella “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” was released. Its story focused on the death of a high court judge at the age of 45. Legendary Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, along with screenwriters Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni were inspired by the novella to create 1952’s “Ikiru”, which translates to “To Live”. Their version followed a lonely workaholic stuck in a job system that purposely creates gridlock with little progress ever being made. When our protagonist finds out that he has terminal stomach cancer, he decides to make the most of his remaining time by completing a little but meaningful project at work so he can help others in his community. All that background information is to say that 2022’s “Living” is an English remake of “Ikiru”. While “Ikiru” had flaws (a little too long and issues in the third act), it still was an overall solid film that accomplished a great deal and gave us a phenomenal leading performance from Takashi Shimura as Kanji Watanabe. Easily the biggest problem with “Living” is that it is a completely lazy copy and paste of “Ikiru”. Using updated film making technology and switching Japan to the United Kingdom doesn’t warrant enough of a change to remake a classic film. While I am sure that the film studios correctly assume that 99% of viewers either won’t know about “Ikiru” or won’t take the time to watch a two and a half hour long Japanese film from the 1950s if they do, this ensures that modern audiences will wrongfully think that this is an original film with fresh ideas. Sadly, despite a few solid aspects, Kazuo Ishiguro’s script brings virtually nothing new to the table and the laziness is rather insulting. The fact that this is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars (it won’t win) is laughable and the weakest of the nominees (although “Women Talking” is neck and neck with this). Not that a Japanese screenwriter couldn’t have provided a more fresh take on the original film adaptation, but perhaps Ishiguro was too close to the original subject matter and an English screenwriter should have adapted this material. The direction here is rather bland, the score is forgettable and despite a good performance from Bill Nighy, original actor Shimura was far superior almost 70 years ago. The Best Actor race is one of the weakest in recent memory with only three of the five nominees (Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser and Austin Butler) truly blowing anyone away and the last two slots filled by Nighy and Paul Mescal (who I have yet to watch) could have been swapped out with other actors. While Nighy is a legend and has decades of memorable roles and performances, this did not deserve the Best Actor nomination he received. He is good here, as is the majority of the cast but not great enough to warrant the nomination. As for what works, besides the good acting, the production and costume design are fantastic and the pacing is a little better here seeing as this is a solid 40 minutes shorter than “Ikiru”. The only minor change from the original that worked was Alex Sharp as Peter Wakeling in a character role that was expanded for the better from the original film. Besides those minor accomplishments, the copy and paste, lazy screenplay means that if you want to see this moving story told well, you should seek out Kurosawa’s 1952 film, which is far more rewarding than this barely updated retread.

#BrawnOfTheDead / #AboutTime2 / #DoesntBreakNewPlayGround / #DVDBoxSwingSet / #DeadMansQuest / #InTheBlandOfTheLiving

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s