Never Let Me Go

6 Oct

Title: Never Let Me Go
Year: 2010
Director: Mark Romanek
Writer: Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling
MPAA Rating: R, some sexuality and nudity
Runtime: 103 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

When I saw Never Let Me Go I had some supreme expectations going in, and let me just take a moment and state why that was. Firstly, this was an adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel which I personally love and have always thought would be quite difficult to effectively translate onto the screen. Secondly, the director is Mark Romanek who has only done two other films to date, one was Static in 1985, which I haven’t actually seen, but the other was 2002’s One Hour Photo, which I found to be surprisingly good, not to mention that the guy has directed some of the best music videos of the past two decades. And then, we come to the three stars of the film, the two ladies are two of the most promising young actresses of the past decade, both are 25 years-old and already have one Oscar nomination under their belts, Ms. Knightley for Pride & Prejudice and Ms. Mulligan, who I have a huge crush on, for her star-making turn last year’s sublime An Education. As for the male lead, Mr. Garfield, he is poised to go down as one of the most promising male actors of this decade, with his turn in this film and The Social Network making him one of the most talked-about newcomers this year, and his upcoming role as the new face of Spider-Man surely making him a household name in the coming years. So yeah, expectations were running high with this one.

And Mr. Romanek and his amazing cast completely outdid those expectations for me, since Never Let Me Go will surely go down as one of my favorite films of the year. I thought it completely captured the essence of the Ishiguro novel, and had three top-notch performances from its leads, just really the sort of film that stimulates me thoroughly, and has me leaving the theatre with a smile on my face, and writing this knowing this one’s deserving from my top grade, and then some.

We are introduced to this society, in which humans are cloned as children, only to serve as organ donors later on in life. That is their sole purpose, to grow parts that will then be cut off them and given to someone who needs it, and then die once too much has been taken away from them. The dystopian mood and environment created in the novel translated beautifully into the film thanks to Mr. Romanek, who creates this world perfectly. These are children that live in a closeted environment, protected from the outside world and its values, and just raised to donate, being esteemed by the others depending on how much and how successfully they had donated. These are kids after all, they will believe everything the world feeds them and live by it without questioning it so long as they can’t see an opposing argument, and in the world they live it, there is none of that.

The three kids we meet, first when they are young and later when they are in their mid-twenties, are Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, the characters of Ms. Mulligan, Ms. Knightley and Mr. Garfield, respectively, and they all were raised at Hailsham, a donor boarding school which does treat the kids as human beings and not just merely as objects from which to get organs, a more experimental institution ,if you will.

The story isn’t some sort of social commentary or science-fiction epic, it could be both of those things easily enough, and it certainly has elements from those things here and there, but it’s about something much simpler, something much more human. And that’s what’s so amazing about Never Let Me Go, and one of the reasons why I now regard it as one of the best book-to-screen adaptations ever, because it manages to mix those two aspects of the story ever so masterfully, this is a film that, much like the novel it’s based on, touches the mind with its philosophical issues, but also gets to your heart with the human side of the story being told. A rare feat to do at all, and an even more amazing one to do with such level of skill.

Everything about Never Let Me Go is pretty much perfect. The performances are exquisite, Ms. Mulligan’s I thought was especially exceptional, and, though I doubt it’ll ultimately happen, were it up to me she’d most certainly get her second consecutive Oscar nomination for this. But it’s not only the performances that make this film so great, everything else about it contributes to that, the lighting, the colors, this is just a gorgeous film and credit must go to Mr. Romanek, who managed to get that perfect blend from the  heavily structured sci-fi aspect of the story with the more melancholically-toned romance part of it, this is a guy who should seriously make more films.

This film is genius, and I feel like I’m going on and on about that in here, but it just is. It won’t go down as my favorite movie of the year, as it is Inception is already ranked higher than this one on my personal list, and I’m sure that by the end of the year a few more will go before it on my year-end list, but there was just something about this one that got to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I love when films get a favorite novel of mine so expertly right, maybe it’s the more simple reason that I just love seeing Ms. Mulligan shining as brightly as she does here, I don’t know, I just loved this experience.

I loved how gracefully this was all done, a film that just thoroughly sucks you into its world with three amazing performances and a beautiful overall tonality. This is a film that does indeed demand quite a bit of emotional investment from its audience to fully appreciate it as the masterful work it is, and the emotional investment is so large that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people say they found it too heavy and didn’t love it, but I urge you to go along with everything this throws at you, to be open to it and let it suck you in, because, trust me, the end result is more than worth it.

Grade: A+

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