Film Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

on Monday, February 07, 2011
(Ed's note: Artist Tasha Winton kindly offered up some spoiler-free words on 'Never Let Me Go', which actually often concerns itself with art. So that's worked out nicely. Her Tumblr and Flickr also showcase her impressive work.

Words: Tasha Winton

'Never Let Me Go' (UK Release: 11 Feb '11)

Director: Mark Romanek
Cast: Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan, who was recently hailed as the new Audrey Hepburn, stars alongside Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in this adaptation of the 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel, 'Never Let Me Go'. The film follows the lives of three children growing up at a rural English boarding school in the 1970s, called Hailsham. The dystopian world they inhabit is gradually revealed to the viewer, as well as to them, and becomes more and more sinister and tragic as the story progresses.

Although the themes in this film could be described as sci-fi, I feel that it succeeds in creating the impression of a world where the medical police state is fully ingrained and accepted. It is not fantastical or looking to shock, although it does, and focuses instead on the relationships between the three characters, Kathy (Mulligan), Ruth (Knightly) and Tommy (Garfield).

The characters are essentially in a love triangle and when they reunite after a number of years apart they are forced to come to terms with their feelings for one another and the impact they have had on each other’s lives. The story deals with huge questions of what it means to be human and the importance of freedom, but on a very subdued and personal level.

It is directed by Mark Romanek ('One Hour Photo') with beautiful cinematography by Adam Kimmel ('Capote'), both of whom are American. However they do not romanticise the setting but succeed in creating a powerful atmosphere using the gloomy English weather and evocative scenery, especially that of the Norfolk coast. The look of the film is very close to how I imagined it when reading the book, with a palette of natural browns and greens. Speaking on his work on the film Romanek has said that it is a "love story where the science fiction is this subtle patina on the story."

I felt that the film was successful in echoing the subtlety and multi-layered quality of Ishiguro's writing, however it was slightly less clear about some aspects of the novel. In the book the character of Madame is a much more significant, and haunting, figure in the lives of the three children, whereas she is far less prominent in the film. The dialogue however, written by Alex Garland ('28 Days Later') is incredibly poignant, yet sparse, and reflects the novel beautifully.

The performances, especially by Mulligan, whom the story centres around, were strong but wonderfully understated. It is encouraging to see three such talented young British actors, as well as the children who play the characters during their school years. I was disappointed to see that this film received no BAFTA or Oscar nominations but would still wholly recommend you to go and see it, and if you enjoy it or not, to read the book.

'Never Let Me Go' is being previewed ahead in UK cinemas ahead of its wide release on February 11th.

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