Never Let Me Go (2010)

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When you label a movie as sci-fi many people forget that the term encompasses a wide range of thought-provoking material that doesn’t have to include shiny constumes, spaceships, laser guns, teleporters or pointy-toothed aliens. Never Let Me Go is one such sci-fi movie. It’s set in an alternate reality in which certain people are developed to be nothing more than organ donors or carers. They are schooled together, live together and basically bubble-wrapped on their way through life until they “complete” (to complete is to die).

Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield play the three friends who have been given this particular life and the movie shows just what their childhood consists of before putting the strain on those bonds of friendship, strain that comes from both standard problems that arise within friendships and from the pressure and fear of just what lies ahead of them.

Mark Romanek may well be best known for his music video work but he directs here with a pleasingly quiet and unflashy style, a world away from the MTV stylings that people overviewing his past works may be worried about. Many may think the film is too slow but I enjoyed the many opportunities to take in the ideas and implications of just what each gesture and euphemism truly meant. And keeping up with everything in this movie leads to many impactful moments, let me tell you. Kudos must go to Kazuo Ishiguro for his original novel and Alex Garland for his thoughtful and intelligent adaptation.

The acting from all concerned is great. A supporting cast that includes Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Domhnall Gleeson all do absolutely great (not to mention the young actors playing the childhood versions of Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley) but the most powerful moments come from the grown-up trinity. Keira Knightley shows once again that she’s more than just a pretty face with her performance as the least sympathetic of the three, a girl who tries to get everything she wants and yet still can’t change her fate. Carey Mulligan continues her superb run of performances and it’s worth noting that while her character may come across as the “good” girl she also has a shadow on her soul, for want of a better phrase. Andrew Garfield has fast become one of my favourite actors and it is his performance that packs the biggest punch. One moment near the end of the movie, and you’ll know it when you see it, was so brilliantly performed and shot that it almost had me in tears with it’s sense of immense devastation.

There are faults. The movie doesn’t go as far into certain aspects of the process as I would have liked and while some shots are indeed beautiful there are too many others weighed down by the faded, drab, limited colour scheme. I know that may well have been a conscious, stylistic choice to remind us of the characters missing out on so much of life but it isn’t successful from start to finish.

A movie that should please both fans of sci-fi and fans of Merchant Ivory Productions, Never Let Me Go is certainly a solid cinematic effort but, much like the procedures shown, it promises more than it delivers and keeps the audience a little too shielded from the harsher realities of the situation.

DIRECTOR: MARK ROMANEK
STARS: CAREY MULLIGAN, ANDREW GARFIELD, KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, CHARLOTTE RAMPLING, SALLY HAWKINS
RUNTIME: 103 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: UK/USA

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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