BILL Nighy is absolutely one of my favourite actors. Apart from just being good at what he does, I think it is because he has the ability in his acting to embody something my Dad used to talk about quite a lot. The concept of many people living lives of ‘quiet desperation’.

The film Living is not one you would enjoy if you need action and adventure at every turn. A fast-paced thriller it is not. But it is certainly moving and thought-provoking. It is the story of a man who has led a predictable, monotonous and unfulfilling life for years on end.

He gets up, sits in the same seat each day on his train journey to work, spends his day moving papers from one pile to another and goes home only to repeat the same pointless routine the next day. It is only when he is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer that he sits up and realises that if he is ever going to really live, then that time is now.

In one of the scenes, Bill Nighy’s character, Mr Williams, reveals his diagnosis to a much younger female colleague with whom he has spent a couple of enjoyable afternoons. He watches her laugh, dream about the future and enjoy a knickerbocker glory.

He admits ‘I looked at you and I remembered what it was like to be alive.’ The rest of the film is about Mr Williams’ search for his own way to feel “alive” once more while he still has the opportunity.

The day after I saw this film I was visiting a hospital where I had been asked to support a staff member who had gone through a traumatic event. I instinctively liked the lady and as we talked, she told me how much she loved her job.

She compared it to a previous role in which she had been a desk-based auditor. She described how in that role it had felt as though she wasn’t making a difference to anyone and recalled having hated it. In total contrast to this she was now part of a team tasked with pulling together the narrative of any case where a child had passed away in hospital.

‘The job I do now is hard emotionally” she said, “and often really upsetting – but at the end of each day I feel as though I’ve made a difference to someone. It feels as though what I do matters.’

Despite the very difficult nature of her job – the fact that what she did had genuine significance meant that her days were filled with meaning. It was this fact which kept her going even on the most traumatic of days. This sentiment was pretty much the same as the one expressed by Bill Nighy’s character Mr Williams. Having lived a life of monotony and pointless repetition, shuffling papers from one pile to another, he decided that he was going to make his last few months on earth count for something. He was going to do something that mattered.

‘What matters’ is quite clearly going to be different for each and every one of us – and thank God for that, otherwise we would all be driven to do exactly the same things in life.

However, what I took from the film is that each of us has the opportunity to find something in life that genuinely matters to us. It may be something staring us in the face (as was the case in the film) or it could be something a bit more elusive. But in either case it is worth stopping to think about.

It is a rare person who will look back at the end of his or her life and wish they had done more hoovering, ironing or commuting. But for Mr Williams, as well as for the rest of us, there will be something of significance which will give us satisfaction to look back on.

What matters to you personally is something that only you yourself can decide. The trick is to take the time to find what those things are whilst you still have the time to make them happen.