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Never Let Me Go

August 10, 2011

There is a lot to commend about this film. It’s well directed, has beautiful cinematography, and puts a fresh twist on an increasingly popular theme. The acting is mostly top notch as well. In fact, Carey Mulligan is quickly establishing herself as one of the best actors in Hollywood. Yet, for all this, the movie still fell flat for me. It’s hard to say why, exactly, but I think a large part has to do with the story, or at least the structure of the story. The story itself is fascinating. It probes questions like “what does it mean to be human?” and “is all life sacred, and if so, is some more sacred than others?” The story is also played out on a small scale, which benefits this type of film, as many films that probe these questions tend to be showy and over-the-top. The problem is that the viewer is left guessing about much of the details of the particular relationships that occur in the movie.

Early in the movie we are introduced to the main characters as young children. There are three main characters, two girls and one boy, and one of the girls and the boy supposedly fall in love. We are then taken into the future about ten or twelve years and find out that the boy (Andrew Garfield) and the other girl (Keira Knightley) are a couple and the first girl (Carey Mulligan) is sad about this. After a bit of drama surrounding this circumstance  we are then whisked further into the future (another ten years or so) for more love triangle complications. If the movie was more focused on it’s sci-fi elements, this wouldn’t be problematic, but this film is trying to approach the sci-fi element from a more personal perspective and we need the relationships to be more grounded. We need to see more of why Mulligan’s and Garfield’s characters are in love and we need to see more of why Knightley’s character pursued him when she knew her friend was already in love with him. Instead, we only get a couple of lines of explanation.

Never Let Me Go is adapted from a best selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and is no doubt enthralling in it’s depiction of these relationships. Of course, a book has a lot more freedom and space to explore these relationships, which is a prospect that most films cannot match. Still, I have seen many adaptions make a smooth transition to the screen – even love stories. The key is for the director, in this case Mark Romanek, to get to the heart of the relationship and film those aspects that the audience will relate to. Perhaps some viewers did relate to this film; not me. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments that shook me or made me emotional – that is one thing that this film does well. And it’s not cheap emotionalism either… it’s definitely earned. Still, I needed more. I would have loved for them to probe some of the outer-lying themes a little more. In particular, I was intrigued by the film’s presentation of child development and indoctrination – if that is the appropriate word. Alas, that is barely touched upon.

Ultimately, my biggest disappointment with this movie can be determined by the content of my review. Never Let Me Go is more than a love story. As I mentioned earlier, there is a sci-fi element to this story. To say anything more about this element, though, would be a spoiler, albeit a minor spoiler. And while this element should be intriguing and worth talking about, I am finding that as I write this review, it’s not worth maneuvering around this (minor) spoiler territory in order to bring it up. After all, if you’re going to watch it, I don’t want to spoil the only interesting and entertaining aspect of the film.

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