Synopsis: Three friends, who grew up a seemingly idyllic boarding school, face a haunting reality when they learn the truth about themselves.
Release Date: September 15, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Science Fiction
Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is an intriguing mixture of romance, melodrama, and science fiction that blends so effortlessly, it never feels like a genre film at all. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by British author Kazuo Ishiguro, the film is centered on the lifelong friendship between Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley), students at the bucolic English boarding school Hailsham. At the start of the film, pastel colored credits inform us we’re entering an alternate reality where diseases like cancer are curable and the life expectancy is over 100 years.
What is the connection between the Hailsham students and humans’ newfound longevity? That is the mystery at the heart of the first third of the film where we’re kept in the dark about what exactly makes Hailsham students “special.” Information is delivered piecemeal; words like “career,” “donor,” and “tokens” hint at a world where children are shrouded in mystery, kept isolated from the realities of the world outside. At Hailsham, money and toys are foreign concepts and all young minds are molded by the icy rhetoric of headmistress Miss Emily (a steely Charlotte Rampling). Meanwhile, the sensitive Tommy is dealing with rage issues, Kathy is struggling with her burgeoning feelings for Tommy and Ruth has designs of her own on Tommy.
Then: the truth. Why are Hailsham students “special”? The revelation, which I won’t spoil here, sets in motion the events of the rest of the film. As adults, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are bound on a predestined path. What freedoms are they allowed within that path, if any? Ishiguro’s novel, adapted with skill and finesse by screenwriter Alex Garland, is rich in thematic quandaries. What is the nature of real love? What makes one human? Why do humans remain in hopeless situations–or is there always hope?
If that sounds heavy, it is, and I often found myself straining against the film’s occasionally stifling asceticism. Until the last twenty minutes or so, the tension is so great and the characters in such inescapable agony, it’s a relief to finally witness moments of catharsis.
One moment in particular, when Kathy and Tommy confront Miss Emily years after leaving Hailsham, is especially devastating. In this scene, and throughout the film, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield give miraculous performances. Garfield is especially heartbreaking as a weak but noble young man who yearns for escape and enlightenment but never quite believes he is strong enough or worthy of love and happiness. With last year’s Oscar-nominated turn in An Education, Carey Mulligan announced herself as the best new actress on the scene, and Never Let Me Go cements her reputation. The range of emotion and experience she conveys is astonishing. Equally impressive is the casting of the actors to play young Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Isobel Meikle-Small who plays young Kathy is a dead ringer for Carey Mulligan and in her film debut delivers a remarkably poised and affecting performance. All the supporting cast is perfect as well, from the other angel-faced Hailsham students to the local townspeople who regard the kids with fear and pity in equal measure.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Mark RomanekAllon Reich
- Producer(s): Alex Garland
- Screenwriter(s): Carey Mulligan (Kathy)Andrew Garfield (Tommy)Keira Knightley (Ruth)
- Story: Charlotte Rampling (Miss Emily)
- Cast: Sally Hawkins (Miss Lucy) Barney PillingAdam KimmelMark Digby
- Cinematographer: Rachel Portman
- Production Designer(s):
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- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
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- Country Of Origin: USAUK