(Directed by Oliver Hermanus, 2022)
Well, this is a new idea for a story! A reserved and disciplined person of a certain age gets a terminal diagnosis and decides to LIVE before he shuffles off. Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a decent enough chap but frosty (and is in fact referred to as ‘Mr. Zombie’) in a middle management civil service position*. The table of junior civil servants over which he presides (stiffly and politely, of course) is piled ridiculously high, with towers of aged paper and nothing ever gets done.
After the appropriately stiff upper-lipped scene with the specialist, Mr. Williams decides to go rogue. Having notified no-one of his intended absence from work (impossible for this character), he takes off to the seaside and goes out and about with a louche young chap (Tom Burke). He visits low dives and sings a nostalgic song (there was not a moist eye in the house)**. Naturally, and quite laughably, he then takes a lovely young lady (Aimee Lou Wood – who knows how to LIVE) out to lunch and astonishes her with his wisdom. She makes him giggle and think about LIVING.
Mr. Williams goes on to do a really good thing. He dies (not a spoiler). His erstwhile workmates look at each other meaningfully under their bowler hats and resolve to do better because frosty old Mr. Zombie did so when he decided to LIVE…
Have we left out any clichés? (The writers did not). Oh yes! (1) The Sir Humphrey types, grimacing at each other through the cigar-smoke in response to an eager young chap, who dashes into the room with a new idea which will help people of the lower classes LIVE; (2) the estranged son; (3) the disrespectful daughter-in-law and (4) the dead wife.
Bill Nighy does what he can with this trite, sentimental hash but it’s too subdued, too little, too late.[*E.G. see The Browning Version: “The Himmler of the Lower Fifth” – Ed.] [**Or a full stomach – Ed.]