Never Let Me Go (2010)


Director:  Mark Romanek
Cast:  Keira KnightleyCarey MulliganAndrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins
Plot:  As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school.  As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.

Genre:  Drama / Romance / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  103min
Rating:  M18 for some sexuality and nudity.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to make of the film adaptation of Never Let Me Go, an acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro that deals with the friendship and romance of three children who grow up to be adults only to be torn apart by a crushing reality.  The film is at times meditative, at times languid, but it is always meandering, looking for meaning, but whatever meaning it has found does not appear to shine any light on the countless themes the film is trying to explore.

Mark Romanek, who is much more prolific as a music video director than as an orthodox filmmaker, has only three film credits to his name, including Never Let Me Go.  But judging from his work in One Hour Photo (2002) and in this film, he has quite a flair for creating a dense sense of mood.  In the former, he manages to bring out a feeling of unease that slowly becomes creepy.  In his latest work, he drenches nearly every scene with an unmistakable sense of melancholic longing.

In a way, the film’s cinematography is almost tragically poetic, as the camera captures the chilly breeze that ruffles the actors’ hair and the perpetual gray sky above them with a sort of detached understanding that reflects an outlook that is clearly fatalistic.  After all, the story is anything but optimistic.  The major theme of Never Let Me Go is that of selfishness as the film explores the self-seeking attitudes of human character, and its consequences.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightly), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) are the three central characters in the film.  Both Kathy and Ruth are fond of Tommy, but it is Ruth who gets the carrot end of the deal.  She has a relationship with Tommy for most parts of her youth, even though she knows Kathy would be a better partner for him.  But does love amount to anything for anyone whose life’s fate is all but sealed?

Born into a world where a selected few are groomed from child to adult so that their organs could be “donated” to other people, these three characters are that selected few, and while they experience the richness that life has to offer, it is clearly short-lived.  The performances by Mulligan and Knightly are adequate but Garfield’s seems shallow by comparison.  His presence seems to render the general performance of the leading cast uneven.

However, it is Alex Garland’s (28 Days Later, 2002; Sunshine, 2007) script that lets the film down the most.  Emotionally distant, it not only shows little interest in exploring the psyche of the characters, but also in fleshing out the motivation for the romance between Ruth and Tommy, opting for a more detached perspective that unfortunately loses sight of what matters most to viewers in these kinds of bleak, solemn pictures – the emotional connection to the characters.  In short, Never Let Me Go is a beautifully-shot film but it is never a wholesome experience.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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