NEVER LET ME GO
As children, Ruth (Ella Parnell), Kathy (Izzy Meikl-Small ) and Tommy (Charlie Rowe), spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic, if unusual, English boarding school, Hailsham. They are special children, being groomed for a most unusual life, as organ donors and carers, in the wake of a medical advance that allows such practices to extend the average life expectancy to over 100. But not for them. As they grow into young adults (Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield) they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other in a fated love triangle, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.
Review by Louise Keller:
The commodity of time and the value of life are the issues canvassed in this meditative film in which the central characters take neither for granted. The story concept ignites from a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, which Alex Garland has adapted for the screen, creating a specific and insular reality that looks back, not forward. The mood created by director Mark Romanek is occasionally graced by sprigs of hope before being countered by futile realisations, and while the action is mainly internal within the context of a limited emotional journey, we are left with much to contemplate.
With its devastating issues about life, death and worth, this is quite a sobering film, in fact as the story grips and we begin to understand the finality of the predicament in which the characters are placed, desperation sets in. Andrew Garfield is the stand out performance here as Tommy, the angry young man who lets himself be manipulated in every way - even to the extend to whom he offers his affection. The story is told from the point of view of Kathy (Carey Mulligan), a bright and thoughtful woman whose emotions run deep. Keira Knightley plays the manipulating Ruth, blessed with looks but graced by cutting insecurities. Both are excellent.
Winning every main category in the British Independent film awards is no surprise - this is an artistic film with profound themes and an opportunity to shine for actors, screenwriter and director alike. Rachel Portman's distinctive music adds an ethereal quality, elevating the mood to the philosophical. Personally, I found the film rather frustrating as the characters are almost exclusively passive and accepting of their tragic fate and the purpose for which they have been told they exist. I am purposely keeping my comments general as it is more effective to discover the secrets of Hailsham, The Cottages and the venues for Completion in the context of the story as it unfolds.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its consistently melancholy tone, Never Let Me Go offers audiences a rare opportunity to reflect on the deeper themes that are buried in the story. It's a subtle film of nuances, played out as an emotional journey of three people in not a future setting but the reinvented recent past. If science fiction can be defined as 'what if' then Never Let Me Go is perhaps a sci-fi movie. But it is, perhaps like all good sci-fi, an essay on some of the present issues facing mankind. In this case, the question of extending life expectancy - do we really have so little in our lives we yearn to make them longer? If so, at what cost?
Japanese born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro (of The Remains of the Day fame) poses this question and screenwriter Alex Garland includes it carefully in his adaptation. But for me, by far the most powerful aspect of this film is its exceptional emotional landscape, beautifully laid out by the three central performances - both as children and as young adults. This is above all a romantic drama in which the eternal triangle is spun out and repositioned in a way we find it absolutely gripping.
Carey Mulligan showed her potential in An Education, and here she confirms that, with an achingly credible performance. It is her character, Kathy, whose voice is telling the story (aided by occasional, sensitively chosen narration) and through her eyes we can take a glimpse into this bizarre proposition as she draws us into her feelings with great subtlety.
Keira Knightly provides her Ruth with a set of complex layers which are gradually revealed in a gripping performance, and Andrew Garfield (of The Social Newtwork fame) grows in dramatic power as the film progresses. All three young actors portraying the characters as kids are wonderful - and wonderfully directed by Mark Romanek.
Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins have small but crucial roles, at which both excel, as do all the minor supports and Mark Digby's production design, spanning almost three decades from the 1970s, is as subtle as the film, and contributes greatly to the mood, shot without fuss or artifice by Adam Kimmel.
Romanek's grasp of the material is masterful in its understatement, combining the various elements effortlessly to great cinematic effect. Never Let Me Go allows the audience to take part in its emotional and intellectual discussions, making it satisfying and moving.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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NEVER LET ME GO (M)
CAST: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Izzy Meikl-Small, Charlie Rowe, Ella Purnell, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Kate Bowes Regina, Hannah Sharp
PRODUCER: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
DIRECTOR: Mark Romanek
SCRIPT: Alex Garland (novel by Kazuo Ishiguro)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Kimmel
EDITOR: Barney Pilling
MUSIC: Rachel Portman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Digby
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 31, 2011