Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins
Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Alex Garland, Kazuo Ishiguro (novel)
Cinematography: Adam Kimmel
Original Score: Rachel Portman
Running Time: 103 Mins.
Films have been blurring genre boundaries for years, so to hear that a film is essentially The Island meets Atonement is hardly a shock in itself but the way in which Never Let Me Go bends expectations s and utilises its sci-fi trappings are quite frankly ingenious. In fact forget that this is about clones built for organ donation, it is almost a moot point in a film that uses this fact a the underlying thrust for the film without ever actually seeming that way, crafting a story like this is not an easy feat and that it was oft deemed an unfilmable novel (like so many) makes the film all the more impressive in its achievement as both entertainment of the highest order and a haunting piece that will stay with you.
Beginning in Hailsham, a strict but idyllic boarding school in the English countryside (or that’s how it appears) we focus on three children, Ruth, Tommy and Kathy the school life is seemingly good but the outer grounds a forbidden amidst stories of children having left being found with severed limbs (these sinister undertones of physical damage are only ever spoken of), they take part in art classes and interact with one another as any child would yet something un-nerving lay beneath this happy veneer… fast forward some years and the children have grown into adults, Tommy is with Ruth while Kathy is the one he does, and has always, loved. As they near their preordained destiny (which they unquestionably accept) the tone grows more intimate and though the sad fact remains the focus is on the relationship between the trio.
Another ten years pass, and there has been another shift, Kathy is now a carer while Ruth and Tommy have begun their donations, will true love prevail to save these people from their preordained destIny? Many questions are raised over the course of Never Let Me Go, existential questions, questions about love, they flow freely bubbling under the surface that hides what how sinister the premise really is. That we find ourselves wrapped up in the lives on these people is down to to three things that work so well in conjunction, a fantastic script, a director with a knack for crafting both beautiful imagery and performances and the acting from Garfield and Mulligan in particular, while Knightley is not too shabby either, though she is given the more enviable task of playing the most unlikeable character.
Romanek shoots as if the camera were his paintbrush, everything occurs as if it were under the directors spell and every scene manages to be at once dream-like and ethereal yet truly believable. Flashes of light humour help us stop sliding in wallowing territory, in particular there is a sojourn to the seaside that sees the trio try and “fit in” in a cafe, though for some reason, and I can’t put my finger on how, the emotions you will feel throughout are unique, much like the film itself. One thing I can be certain of is that the score goes some way to helping marry Romanek’s visuals to our psyche, if nothing else the music alone will keep you hooked from beginning to end.
This sure is a hard sell, there’s no doubt about it, and the delay in release from US to Uk is an odd one, if anything this is quintessentially British and demonstrates (if further proof were needed) that Andrew Garfield is a talent to watch, I can only assume that post Social Network Fox have figured his stock is on the rise. It’s not all perfect however and occasionally a few to many ideas are thrown up but not addressed fully, if ever a film were to benefit from a little more room to breathe this is it, I could quite happily have daydreamed (in the best possible way) through countless minutes of the directors vision.
Never Let Me Go is a dream-like experience, sweeping you along by way of the masterly direction that evokes all kinds of emotions, it is a film that feels although its an old friend, familiar yet fresh I would imagine everyone will garner different things from a very different film.