Directed by Oliver Hermanus, written by Kazuo Ishiguro

#Fiction, #terminal diagnosis, #film, #grief

This podcast episode is for you if …. you like nostalgic, heartfelt tales about people dealing with difficult situations and Bill Nighy
This podcast episode may not be for you if… you or someone you know has received a terminal diagnosis


Living (2022) is a British film that follows Rodney Williams, a senior London County Council bureaucrat in 1950s London, who receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. This film was adapted from the Japanese film, Ikiru (生きる translation: To Live), released in 1952 and based on the novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy. 

Whilst I was not able to watch the original, Ikiru nor have I read The Death of Ivan Ilyich, from the other reviews and synopsis I have read, this film does not stray far from the original storyline bar some cultural differences. 

It is a beautifully designed film. The score, set design and costuming really underpinning and highlighting the actors’ brilliant performances. Although there are a significant number of films set during this period of time and, indeed, British films in general, I think the story lends itself well to this cultural period. 

Mr Williams is introduced as a stoic and guarded figurehead in his department, who lacks passion in his work and life. After receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis by his doctor, Mr Williams’ goes on a quest to reinvigorate his life with regular lunches and outings with a younger former colleague, Miss Harris. 

One of the strengths of the film is that it highlights the difficulties people may face when talking with their loved ones about a terminal diagnosis. Throughout the film, we witness Mr Williams disclosing his terminal diagnosis to two people; Mr. Sutherland (a writer who takes him out on the town) and Miss Harris. However, Mr Williams struggles deeply with telling his son, Michael.

It underpins an important message of speaking to your loved ones about any terminal diagnoses, funeral/disposition wishes and other important things that you or the people close to you may like to do before your death.

Living is available to stream on most carriers and may also be available in your local library.


Review by Thy O’Donell

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