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"Never Let Me Go" Lets Go Of A Lasting Impression

Candice Aman |
September 14, 2010 | 11:58 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Never Let Me Go (photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight)
Never Let Me Go (photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight)

"Never Let Me Go"

(UK, 2010, 103 mins)

What do you get when you combine three of England’s most sought after young actors, a screenplay based on one of the decade’s best novels, and a director who is responsible for some of the most visually compelling and innovative music videos?  Surprisingly, the end result is mediocrity.

Based on the critically acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, “Never Let Me Go,” chronicles the lives of three friends growing up, falling in love, and facing the trials and tribulations of being trapped in a fate beyond their control. While this film has all the right ingredients (somber soundtrack and picturesque scenery included) to be a real Oscar contender next year, it lacked an emotional depth and a certain spark that connects audiences with the characters' motives on screen. Instead of feeling that connection, I felt lifeless and unsettled while watching the movie.

Set somewhere along the English countryside in a parallel universe, "Never Let Me Go" tells the tale of the children in the Hailsham School who are raised to be healthy and obedient beings where they are  “told and untold,” as one of their guardians, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), puts it, about what they must do in their short and planned lifetimes. These children are clones; created in a post war era to help increase human life expectancies. By the time they come into their 20’s and 30’s, they must fulfill their duty in life by donating their vital organs through a series of operations before meeting their completion.

With a rather grim back-story serving as the basis for the plot, the film focuses on a love triangle that unfolds amongst the three primary characters, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightly).  Kathy and Tommy are star-crossed lovers from the get-go because of Ruth, who always end up complicating things just a little. But the frequent blurring of the line between friends and more than that is the cause for a majority of the film’s awkwardness and constant struggles between these characters.

Directed by Mark Romanek, who is most notable for his work in music videos such as Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” Madonna’s “Rain” and Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut,” it is no wonder that this movie is a visual feast. Combine the surrealist landscapes of the English countryside mixed with the beautifully tragic scores and here is a movie you won’t be able to take your eyes off. Too bad this film feels motionless and limp.

Fresh off her Academy Award nomination for her role in “An Education” (2009), Mulligan delivers another solid performance through her innocent and subtle nuances as Kathy.  There are also no complaints about Knightly’s acting chops in this film as she has pretty much a handle on the troubled, strong-willed and often time angst filled roles that she’s starting to be type-casted for. But Garfield, poor Garfield, simply gets lost in between two strong female leads. However, he will play Peter Parker in the next installment of “Spiderman” so maybe he will fair better in action films, because from the looks of this movie, drama does not suit him well.

Although TIME Magazine might have dubbed the book to be one the decade’s best, the movie is certainly pale in comparison to the praise and accolades that its literary counterpart received.  No matter how distraught and tragic the plot became, no one cared enough about it to garner a response. It is not the filmmakers’ fault; book adaptations are always challenging to translate on the screen and this one is no different. “Never Let Me Go,” while a beautiful film no less, falls short of capturing the essence of the original. 

Verdict: Go to be thought provoked, not to be entertained

Rating: 3/5 

To reach reporter Candice Aman, click here.

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