image for Living

Short takes

Not suitable under 12; parental guidance to 13 (adult themes, lack of interest for younger viewers)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Living
  • a review of Living completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 March 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to adult themes and lack of interest.
Children aged 12–13 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes. May also lack interest for this age group.
Children aged 14 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Living
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sexualised imagery, infrequent coarse language
Length: 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in London during the 1950’s, Williams (Bill Nighy) has just received a diagnosis of a terminal illness and been given 6 months to live. Williams has lived all of his life as a civil servant in a planning department and decides to take time off to contemplate this news. Unable to tell his son, Michael (Barney Fishwick), Williams travels to the coast armed with a supply of sleeping pills to prepare for the inevitable. A chance encounter with Sutherland (Tom Burke) discourages Williams from this course of action and consequently he hands over the pills to Sutherland (who’s having trouble sleeping). Sutherland takes him out on the town for a night of drinking and fun but Williams doesn’t see this as how he intends to spend his remaining time.

On returning to London, he befriends the young Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood) from accounts, who represents to Williams all that is youthful and full of life. Margaret inspires Williams to return to his job and complete a project to build a playground that had been sidelined for some time. In so doing, he sets an example to his work colleagues to get things done.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Terminal illness; Death and dying.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

  • No violence was noted in this movie.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Nothing particularly scary noted for this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Nothing scary noted for this age group.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

There are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Williams vomits and coughs up blood on his handkerchief.
  • A funeral is held for Williams. Many people are seen crying.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

In addition to the above-mentioned scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb some children aged thirteen and over, including the following:

  • Williams was planning to take several bottles of sleeping pills to end his life but thought better of it and gave the pills away to someone who was having difficulty sleeping.
  • Margaret tells Williams that her pet name for him was ‘Mr Zombie’ – he behaved like he was dead, although he wasn’t dead.
  • Williams practises in front of a mirror how to tell his son about his diagnosis. This is something he is unable to do and Margaret is the only person he tells.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Williams and Sutherland go to a strip joint where a woman undresses down to her underwear. She dances provocatively and then takes her bra off – shown from behind.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • See above. Nothing further noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Most characters smoke, as was the case back in the 1950’s.
  • Williams and Sutherland get drunk on the night out.
  • Drinking at various venues, at home, at bars, at work, etc.
  • Sleeping pills are offered to someone to help them sleep.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Bugger.

In a nutshell

Living is an uplifting drama about death and dying but also more about the meaning of life and how we should use our time wisely. It also celebrates youth and the memory of what it’s like to be alive at a young age. The film is very slow moving and very evocative of the period. Due to the nature of the movie, it isn’t recommended for children under 12 and parental guidance is recommended for 12 – 13 year olds.

The main messages from this movie are not to shy away from our responsibilities and to get things done.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Modesty
  • Empathy
  • Appreciation of other’s efforts
  • Persistence.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Williams lived a very monotonous life in an office. On given a short time to live, Williams is inspired by Margaret, who has a zest for life, to make the most of his time left. Parents could discuss the fact that no-one knows how long they will live and we should all make the most of the time we have in order to leave a worthwhile legacy.
  • Why was it so hard for Williams to tell anyone that he was dying, apart from Margaret? His son Michael was quite disturbed by the fact that he wasn’t told. We should encourage frank and honest discussions about difficult topics.