Sunday, October 10, 2010

A movie review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

Note: If you are completely unfamiliar with this story then this review will contain spoilers to you

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Director - Mark Romanek
103 Min; R
Carey Mulligan - Kathy
Andrew Garfield - Tommy
Keira Knightley - Ruth

Kazuo Ishiguro penned the novel Never Let Me Go on which the new film by Mark Romanek is based. For those who have read it (I have not but have added it to my want list) the film will play with some slight differences but an overall similar theme of sadness. Director Romanek is responsible for another dark piece of which I am a fan, the 2002 film One Hour Photo. In both cases I probably feel about the same, that each film is ultimately lacking something yet I am inclined to remember each one for the good and not for the bad.

In Never Let Me Go, we are introduced to the British school Hailsham which houses a number of school children. They attend class, play sports and paint artwork. All would seem perfectly normal except that these children, while living what would seem to be a typical existence, are anything but typical. Raised from a time before birth to fulfill one purpose, all of these children will someday donate their organs to members of society who require them, and after they have donated enough, they will expire. The euphemisms are easy to figure out - these children are raised for the sole purpose to eventually die upon donating perfectly healthy organs, typically it appears in their late 20s or early 30s. Until they reach that age they live secluded lives with glimpses of the outside world. They experience emotions and even sex but because of the way they are raised, it appears they do not question much their existence.

The acting is superb and it is once again Carey Mulligan who leads the way. As the narrator and one of the central figures, she plays Kathy, a girl at Hailsham who grows up very inquisitive and very much in love with Tommy (Andrew Garfield) who is, like so many among us, torn away by another woman, her best friend Ruth (Keira Knightley.) The movie spends too much time, in my opinion, setting up these early years, specifically the childhood years, in which none of these actors take part since the roles are for children. By the time we get these three in their late teens and onward half the movie feels over. I would have preferred a much briefer set up and more of these three interacting as young adults.

From a movie-making perspective I thought a lot of the pacing and much of the score was out of sorts. For one, there was simply too much time with not much happening in the middle of the film, though everything felt like it should be there, it was not presented very well. I also took issue with certain scenes and an unrelenting pulse-pounding score when it just felt very out of place. With that out of the way, however, I found the film to be beautiful in many ways, especially if you appreciate films with character build up and sad themes that make we, as humans, think about our own existence. Yes it feels like an 'artsy' film at times but Mulligan does well to keep everything on track. She is a true gem of an actress.

In the greater scheme of things this film is about what it is to be human. This is not a sci fi film like The Island and it takes things much much further than, say, My Sister's Keeper. The greatest flaw, for me, is simply the lack of desperation on these young children's part once they do discover the truth. Perhaps it is explained in the book, but for the life of me I can not understand why they do not attempt to break free when given the opportunity. Perhaps it is a case of brainwashing from the time they were born to believe their higher purpose is to donate and then complete, but as the film progresses and these three characters really seem to become emotionally involved, it just feels like they have overlooked the basic fight or flight response.

**** out of 5

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