Bill Nighy’s performance in “Living” received accolades at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
By Vanessa Zimmer
As 2022 comes to a close, there’s never been a better time to find meaning in life. Turns out, a December release from this year’s Sundance Film Festival comes just in time to lend a hand.
Living, with a lauded performance by veteran British actor Bill Nighy, is that film. Drawn from a classic Japanese film made by a master filmmaker, and reworked by a Nobel-winning British author (incidentally, of Japanese heritage), the story follows a longtime government bureaucrat who discovers he is terminally afflicted — leading him to examine his life and work.
Living is the sole fictional film of the bunch.The four other December releases from the 2022 Festival are documentaries, including Framing Agnes, an expansive look at transgender culture and individuality that won a couple of Festival awards. Framing Agnes opens early in the month, as do nonfiction works on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the inventor of the modern-day bulletproof vest, and the battle to change climate change policies.
Tantura — The state of Israel was established in 1948, leading to a war that depopulated many Palestinian villages. Tantura was one of those villages. Israelis considered the action the War of Independence. Palestinians called it The Catastrophe, or “Nabka.” “Director Alon Schwarz revisits former Israeli soldiers of the Alexandroni Brigade as well as Palestinian residents in an effort to re-examine what happened in Tantura and explore why ‘Nakba’ is taboo in Israeli society,” according to the Festival Film Guide. The documentary releases in theaters on December 2.
Framing Agnes — Director Chase Joynt, together with co-writer Morgan M. Page, get innovative with the documentary form by using re-enactments and reimaginations to explore trans history. Agnes was a pioneering transgender woman who participated in UCLA gender health research in the 1960s. “This reclamation tears away with remarkable precision the myth of isolation as the mode of existence of transgender history-makers, breathing new life into a lineage of collaborators and conspirators who have been forgotten for far too long,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Framing Agnes won an Audience Award for Best of NEXT and the NEXT Innovator Prize at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film releases December 2 in New York City.
2nd Chance — Richard Davis invented the modern bulletproof vest in 1969; he shot himself at point-blank range 192 times to illustrate the effectiveness of its protection. His body armor business boomed. Then a police officer wearing the body armor died, and Davis’ past started to unravel. “Equally as questionable as he was captivating, Davis saved thousands of lives while endangering exponentially more,” according to the Festival Film Guide. The film opens in New York and Los Angeles theaters December 2, expanding to other cities on December 9; Showtime is set to stream it next spring.
To the End — Four U.S. leaders and young women of color — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, and Rhiana Gunn-Wright — fight for the Green New Deal to stop climate change. Rachel Lears directs this documentary, covering the rise of climate change politics. “To the End goes behind the scenes of a social and political movement where young people reject the cynicism and complacency of a power structure that has failed to meaningfully address the existential threat we face,” according to the Festival Film Guide. The film opens December 9 in theaters.
Living — Bill Nighy’s performance as a government bureaucrat who discovers he has a fatal illness has been widely applauded since Living premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Nobel-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro adapted Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru from a Japanese setting to 1950s London, and Oliver Hermanus directed. “Free of false sentimentality and tragic intonations, Living finds its soul in the wistful dignity Nighy brings to Williams,” according to the Festival Film Guide. “Transcending its period setting, Living is a timely reflection on the compulsions and distractions that obscure what it means to live.” The film arrives in New York and Los Angeles theaters on December 23.