Never Let Me Go
Alex Garland (Novel: Kazuo Ishiguro)
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Isobel Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, Ella Purnell, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins
R for some sexuality and nudity
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It’s a movie that didn’t get nearly the attention this year that it probably should have. Never Let Me Go is a tender story based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s celebrated novel about an alternate reality where cures for all known diseases and ailments was discovered through a process of creating human clones for organ harvesting. The story starts in the 1970s as three young clones are being raised in a boarding school where they are educated and prepared for brief lives before being farmed.
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley star as those clones Kathy, Tommy and Ruth respectively. They, like the other children, know nothing about their life purposes. They believe themselves to be thinking, breathing organic lives that will grow old together. A conscientious teacher shatters their perceptions and tells them about their future existence. It sets them all on regretful internal journeys to try and come to terms with their fates. While never dealing with the legal implications of the situation, the film focuses entirely on the moral ones. As they learn art and music, they grow and develop just like other children, the difference is that these kids are not likely to live a third of the lifespan of those whose lives they are saving. The film never gives us reason to understand or sympathize with the dying who will receive the generous organs that will keep them going. So, the audience is only left with trying to fathom how we could allow our own civilization to believe that such a measure would be appropriate.
Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley are all superlative. They each convey the jealousy, anger, sadness, hope and despair that go with their various lives. Knightley has shown a level of acting maturity that has been missing from her broader, more audience-friendly work. You might even mistake her for a serious actress if you only had films like this as a reference. Mulligan and Garfield, however, haven’t been dragged into the populism as deeply as their contemporary has, though they have both shown a willingness to perform for a paycheck. Of course, they have plenty of role-models doing the same thing, so we cannot expect them to perform any less.
The story is beautifully crafted, sweet, serene and challenging without feeling heavy handed or egomaniacal. The music is a bit overbearing at times, but is no less beautiful. Director Mark Romanek doesn’t draw attention to himself and allows his actors to convey every emotional treatise the piece has to offer and it’s a stronger film because of it.
December 20, 2010