October 14, 2010

Movie Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

neverletmego1_largeThis adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's (The Remains of the Day) novel by director Mark Romamek (One Hour Photo) and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) is bittersweet, tragic, and distancing. It also happens to be one the most original science fiction tales I have seen on the big screen in some time. It is such an original science fiction film that it doesn't look or feel like a science fiction film. Odd isn't it? Yes, it is, and so is this movie. It is a film that moves at a deliberate pace that allows you to become involved with these characters, taking you on an emotional journey that you just know is not going to end well.

When I first saw the trailer I was not sure it was something I was going to be interested in. Period pieces can be fantastic but they are not always my cup of tea. However, this is not exactly a period piece and there were a number of curious elements in the trailer that kept my mind wondering what exactly was this movie about. Obviously, I have not read the book (I know, I know). Still, the talk of donors and short lives and modeled after trash, not to mention the check in panels at the doors of the school and the row of milk and pills was all just too much for me to take. I knew I had to check it out. I was so curious as to just what this was all about. Granted, the cast is solid as well with Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and Charlotte Rampling.

This film is interesting in how I was drawn into the plight of these characters while at the same time maintaining an emotional distance from them. I cannot quite put my finger on what it is, but the dichotomy does exist.


To be certain this is not a movie made for a wide audience. It is an intimate film that requires you to be involved with the actions, it is only with the active involvement of the audience that the movie takes on its emotional weight and lasting impact, yes, I realize a lot of movies require this level of participation but I feel it needed to be reiterated with regard to this film.

Never Let Me Go takes place in an alternate timeline where the secret to long life has been discovered in the 1950's and by the late 1960's life expectancy has stretched past the century mark. While this information is revealed right at the movie's outset, it does not lead in typical science fiction directions despite it sharing something in common with such science fiction films as Clonus: The Parts Horror, Logan's Run, and even The Island. It seems this medical breakthrough comes at the expense of the lives of the young, created young, but young nonetheless. The kids of this film are presented an idyllic life that is destined to be cut short through a donor program.

It is not about rebellion against the system or even discovery of the system. This is a much smaller story that follows a few individuals living within this system, recognizing where their lives are heading and making the most of what they have. There is a dark pall cast over the entirety of this movie. We know it is not going to end well, they know it is not going to end well and this knowledge informs the way we interact with it.


Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley) are the trio at the center of the tale. We meet them as young children, a threesome of natural friends. We get to spend time with them and witness how close they are. However,that dynamic changes in their teenage years when Ruth sees how perfect a couple that Kathy and Tommy could be and decides to step in before it can happen. This changes their relationship forever.

It becomes a story of lost love, would be love, and profound sadness and longing. It is interesting to watch the characters move along their paths, primarily Kathy. It is through her prism that we experience the movie, through her sadness, through her hope, through her wondering what might have been and what could still be.

It is but it isn't a science fiction film. It is that rare creation that wants to sound time with characters, to take us along their personal paths. This is a film that you will want to digest and let simmer long after it is over. It is subtle, it is introspective, it is haunting, and something to be experienced.


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