Living, Maybe #filmreview

There are certain actors who seem to play themselves. Sean Connery was a top exponent of being Sean Connery even if he was the same as a suave British agent in Bond and a rough hewn US-Irish beat cop in the Untouchables. One other, mostly is the British actor, Bill Nighy. He’s grand, a real talent but so often he’s pretty much the same sort of dithery British gent even if he’s not.

Living is the perfect vehicle for his kind of anally retentive stiff-upper-lippery. This post war drama emphasises how drear and desperate were so many lives in Britain, constrained by red tape and class. There’s one early scene on a suburban railway station where the waiting passengers were 90% male and all dressed the same, especially their bowler hats. All hidebound by convention.

Ah the bowler, the status symbol of the aspiring middle class under-manager. When I joined my law firm in 1981, there was a group of senior lawyers who were hoping to make it to partnership. They joined in the early 1970s when the city as I came to know it and the previous version that had terrorised my father in the 1950s and early 60s overlapped. One of the group made it onto the notepaper and, when it was my turn, years later with my cohort, he took his time to point out how things had changed.

One day, he recounted, he and those other keen as freshly laundered socks lawyers received a note asking them to attend the senior partner’s office ‘at their convenience’. They all knew that meant immediately. When they arrived in his anteroom they were surprised to see their fellows there and wondered what was the purpose of this audience. They were ushered inside. Sir Charles (he got his gong for services to the Bank of England) had them stand at the end of his desk. ‘Gentlemen, it is always a delight to see youngsters such as you out and about, full of life and joie de vivre. But you do need to remember that, at all times you are representing the firm and you need to behave accordingly.’ The four young lawyers wondered what they’d done. Knocked someone over? Been rude to a tradesman? Dropped some litter? ‘In future, please ensure, if you take your umbrellas and while they are not in use, they remain tightly furled. Thank you.’

Bill Nighy would have understood. His character was tightly furled until rocked by some tragic news. Slow, not without a panic or two he reappraises his life and takes some steps. But you don’t quickly change from someone so swaddled by their emotional constipation to a free spirit. Not easily. That’s what made this so enjoyable, even if it was like watching an onion try and undress. There were some areas of the writing where I think opportunities were missed but overall it was so believable and the small but powerful victory with which the film schmaltzes its way to a conclusion rings true.

One I’d recommend if you want a reminder of how bloody awful Britain was in so many ways before the liberalising 1960s. The good old days? Bollocks to that.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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20 Responses to Living, Maybe #filmreview

  1. joylennick says:

    Being an enthusiastic teenager at the end of the war – while I completely understand and agree with everything you wrote – from my viewpoint, having been an evacuee in three, different places (mainly Wales) I was, soon, to see rationing abolished (oh the joy!) and be reunited with my parents; even more…and experience the wonderful music and dancing via the US. And to be able to buy more clothes which didn’t resemble old curtains… was a plus too. Of course ‘the restrictive mores’ of the times were still in place, but
    it was safer to move around (very few ‘druggies’ then), and at least our immediate family had been stirred but not shaken. Peace reigned and I was one very happy bunny. PS I was a ‘temporary secretary’ at Lloyds, London for a few months, and recall plenty of tightly shut umbrellas…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M. L. Kappa says:

    Haven’t seen this yet—in our neck of the woods it will be dubbed in French and to hear Bill Nighy speaking in the voice of Guillaume Canet—no thanks. I will have to wait until i can stream it, but it sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    It’s on our list of films to watch 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree. The last film I saw with Bill Nighy (and there have been many) was Love, Actually, where he completely stole the show!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In college, our group had the wrapped umbrella rule. We wore fedoras rather than bowlers but the idea of being buttoned up was the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. JT Twissel says:

    There are way too many actors who essentially play the same character again and again although it’s hard to know if it’s really them. I really liked Nighy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I agree – returning to the good old days only to find they’re really weren’t so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not only were the “good old days’ not all that good, but (and this may be slightly contentious), Great Britain was not all that great!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. George says:

    This sounds good. I do like Bill Nighy, even if his range is a little constrained (perhaps only by directors).

    I remember watching a sheep shearing demonstration at the Westmorland County Show where the Aussie shearer took great joy explaining how the finer fleece around the sheep’s nether regions is what is used to make bowler hats. Five minutes later one of the show officials, possibly the only people left who still don bowlers, turned up only to have his air of self-importance punctured by the assembled crowd turning round and chuckling at him.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Widdershins says:

    Hmm … another one for the watch-list. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. trifflepudling says:

    Mark Rylance often seems to play himself too in a rather brilliant way.
    I loved Bill in the newer Emma.. (inNOcence), especially when he jumped down the stairs.
    Film sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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