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Stars: Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Tom Burke, Alex Sharp, Adrian Rawlings, Barney Fishwick, Patsy Ferran, Lia Williams

Director: Oliver Hermanus

A virtuoso performance by Nighy is the beating heart of this belated UK remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1952 masterpiece Ikiru. The film starts quite poorly, but soon gathers emotional ballast.

Its setting is a government planning building in 1953, whose denizens work in deliberately artificial, stifling pool conditions, almost like something out of 1984, where every inquiry is securely bound in red tape, with many of them mothballed.

In charge of this uncaring mausoleum is Mr Williams (Nighy), nicknamed 'Mr Zombie' by newcomer Margaret Harris (Wood). Williams, who remains at a distance from his son (Fishwick) and son's fiancee (Ferran), who live with him, is shattered to be told that he has terminal cancer and has just months to live.

In a state of shock, he withdraws half his life savings and heads for the coast, where he's befriended by a pulp writer/barfly, Sutherland (Burke). 'I came down here to enjoy myself,' Williams confides. 'But I realise I don't know how.'

Sutherland introduces him to slot machines, jazz clubs and strip dives before the dying man returns to London and runs into Ms Harris, who needs a reference for a new job, given her by Williams over a lunch at Fortnum & Mason.

Williams' subsequent obsession with the girl is bit creepy, but has its point, as she's the first to whom he confesses his secret. Returning to the office, Williams resolves, like Scrooge, and however briefly, to be a better man.

Stately in parts, the film is kept afloat by Nighy's understated excellence and you may well up when someone, near the end, tells fellow-newbie Wakeling (Sharp) that 'he'll be remembered around here with respect and affection'. Nicely written by the eminent Kazuo Ishiguro, who previously, in The Remains of the Day, revealed a fascination with unfulfilled lives, this is quality stuff.

David Quinlan

UK 2022. UK Distributor: LionsGate. Colour by Company 3 .
102 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Oct 2022