Weekend Roundup: Never Let Me Go review

Welcome to May, everybody. For having endured a pretty cold and snowy Winter, I’m certainly glad Spring has arrived and Summer is upon us! I was fortunate enough to watch not one but two excellent sci-fi movies this weekend, a genre I like especially if it’s the thought-provoking kind. And both Never Let Me Go and Source Code (to be reviewed at a later date) definitely fit that category.

NEVER LET ME GO

I first heard about this film when I saw the absolutely gorgeous, evocative poster for it and it’s one of my top ten fave posters last year. I was so intrigued when I saw the mysterious trailer that I had to find out what the Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel is all about. All I can tell you is that the trailer did a fantastic job in keeping the twist under wraps.

The film tells us right away in its opening text that there has been a medical breakthrough in 1952 that is key to expanding the human lifespan beyond 100 years. Carey Mulligan narrates the story with an ever soothing voice as 28-year-old Kathy H. (It’s reminiscent of Cate Blanchett’s as Galadriel in the Lord of The Rings) and the film is seen through her viewpoint. The film then goes into flashback mode into Kathy’s childhood in an idyllic English boarding school named Hailsham, where she befriended Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield).

The kids at Hailsham, live in a world and time that seems familiar to us, but yet as the scenes unfold, we have an inkling that it’s quite unlike anything we know or experience. For one, none of us have to scan our wrist going in and out a building. The headmaster tell the kids that they are ‘special’ and keeping themselves healthy is a paramount importance, which should clue you in about the very purpose of their existence. Words like ‘completion’, ‘deferral’ and ‘carer’ all have totally different meaning when used in the context of their situation. The reaction of the outside world, such as the way the delivery people look at them, also provide clues to the kind of realities Kathy, Ruth and Tommy face.

The monumental question of ‘what does it mean to be human?‘ isn’t something new, plenty of other films before it such as Blade Runner have made us ponder about the ‘who, what, where and why’ of our existence and its fleeting nature. But what’s unique about Mark Romanek‘s direction from Alex Garland’s script is that the film doesn’t feel like you are watching a sci-fi. The subtle way the haunting realities are revealed are ever so subtle, but the impact are no less pungent. Yes, the pace is decidedly s-l-o-w, but I actually appreciate its gracefulness and understated elegance. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story.

This film is achingly painful to watch at times… and stays with me long after the credits roll. Though the author and filmmaker don’t spoon-feed their opinions on the matter, it’s arguably a cautionary tale against science in the absence of ethics, no matter how ‘noble’ the cause seems to be. I hope people who watch this realize what happens when they try to play God. The unnerving part for me is how the subjects themselves react to the fate they’re subjected to before they’re even formed, even when Tommy screams of injustice (in one of the most heart-wrenching scenes), that’s as far as it goes. The same way when Kathy experiences a personal betrayal from someone closest to her, there’s not a hint of retaliation on her part. Perhaps that’s how they’re ‘wired’… I don’t know, but it’s heartbreaking to watch.

It’s hard to say that I ‘enjoyed’ this film because of the reasons stated above, but I have to say I admire and appreciate it immensely. Beautifully-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film, it also boast top notch performances. As Paolo noted in his comment on the poster post, I too am glad that Knightley plays second fiddle to Mulligan here, and not the other way around. I compared Mulligan’s voice to Blanchett’s above, and I could easily say the same thing about her nuanced acting. I’m already impressed by her performance in An Education, and she proves once again she’s one of the best young actresses working today. Garfield and Knightley are both good and affecting in their roles, and Izzy Meikle-Small is brilliant as well as the younger Kathy. But it’s Mulligan who carries this movie with her refined poise, she truly is the heart and soul of the movie. Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins also turn in memorable performances as teachers of Hailsham who ultimately don’t see eye to eye about the mission of the school.

Overall, it’s a rather bleak piece but one that’s worth a watch for those on the lookout for an exquisitely-done sci-fi drama that packs an emotional wallop. This one definitely won’t be just a fleeting existence in my cinematic memory.

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Well, what did you end up seeing this weekend? Or if you’ve seen Never Let Me Go, I’d love to hear what you think.

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42 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Never Let Me Go review

  1. Ted S.

    I read the book last year, I think, it’s been a while. I haven’t seen the movie yet, maybe because I’m afraid I might not like the film since the book was quite good. I love the novel version of The Road and the film was such a letdown that I wish I hadn’t seen it. I might give it a rent someday.

    I saw three films over the weekend, I saw Fast Five on Saturday and enjoyed it quite a bit. I also saw Black Swan and The Tourist. Black Swan was very good, as for The Tourist, I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it. The film could’ve been great had they actually wrote a good script along with the great visual of Venice.

    1. PrairieGirl

      Hey Ted, glad to hear you liked The Tourist, I think you and me are the only ones out of my movie peer group who did. There were flaws and kinks in it, but overall I liked it. But don’t blink – you might just miss Rufus if you do!

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah I think you’re right, I’ve read so many negative reviews about it that I thought I was gonna hate it too, but somehow I was intrigue with the film. You know I thought Rufuss was gonna have some sort of big role in the film but he was just a decoy.

    2. Rotten Tomatoes said it’s actually very faithful to the book, so you might like it, Ted. I remember what you told me about The Road, I think that one is far more depressing than this one, though this one is really sad, too.

      Yeah, lots of people saw Fast Five too apparently, the theaters must be packed! Y’know, I enjoyed parts of it and Venice is one of the best things about it, as well as Dalton & Rufus (there I said it Prairiegirl :D) But yeah, the script was awful, can’t believe this is from the same guy who did The Lives of Others.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah I’ll probably rent it.

        I saw Fast Five at IMAX theater, the real one, so it wasn’t pack at all, which is why I love seeing films there. As for The Tourist, seems to me everyone was focusing on how to make the movie look so good they forgot about telling a good story. Oh well, a missed opportunity to make a great caper flick.

    1. I like it too, but can’t say I ‘adore’ it because of the subject matter. But the performances are worth a watch.

    1. Yep, it truly does, Fitz. That shot was so tranquil though it’s as if the director is trying to romanticize the whole thing, but it’s just so darn sad.

      1. Yeah, I’d like to know to, Dezzy. I know you don’t like Keira but no love for Mulligan or Garfield?? Can’t imagine why.

      2. Keira was wrong for the part. She came off as unlikable and most one-dimensional and it’s never obvious why Tommy would even have any remote interest in her.

        1. Well later when they’re on the beach it’s revealed why they’re even together at all. It’s interesting that the theme in Keira movie Atonement also came to play in this, even though she’s on the reverse side of the situation here.

          1. well, Keira has always been extremely plastic and annoying in her roles, and I just don’t buy her “British charm” (which I don’t see), and as Castor says above she is always unlikable and one-dimensional. When it comes to Mulligan, I’m still not sure why I don’t like her, but I really don’t like watching her physically. Garfield is just nothing special, and I don’t get the fuss around him. Just a normal guy with no special talent.

            1. I can see people may think so about Keira… I even read a review of this movie that says she acts with her teeth, ahah.

              As for Mulligan… well, there’s a reason why you don’t know why you don’t like her… perhaps it’s because there isn’t anything NOT to like? 🙂 As for Garfield, I don’t know how you can say he has no special talent? Have you seen ALL of his movies? I’ve seen a couple of his indie flicks besides Social Network and I must say he’s really talented. Perhaps not as charismatic as Tom Hardy or Aaron Johnson, but doesn’t mean he’s not a good actor.

        2. I actually liked her for the part and felt that it was appropriate. Although I am not a fan of Keira, regularly, I thought she did well and added the right sense and attitude necessary to pull of the character.

          I don’t think it needed to be necessarily explained as to why Tommy had interest in her. Afterall, can one always explain why the heart loves/wants someone?

          ..my opinion anyways.

          1. Yeah I’m not generally a fan but I thought she did a decent job here. In fact, she wasn’t her usual glamorous self towards the end, so I guess she’s not as vain as some actresses who always want to look good in their movies (i.e. Jennifer Aniston).

            I think it’s pretty clearly explained in the beach scene above why Tommy & Ruth were together. I don’t think they love each other.

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    1. I didn’t even remember this scene isn’t in the film, but it doesn’t matter, I think it still perfectly conveys the melancholy mood of it.

  3. Nice review…I think I have read another review in another blog, I forgot which one. I wanted to see this too but not to anxious about it…still waiting for the right time to see it….or more likely,waiting for someone to lend it 😉

    1. Thanks Nov. I reckon you’d enjoy the performances, let me know once you see it as I’m curious to know what you think.

    1. Yes, haunting is the perfect way to describe it Castor. I feel the same way… and yep, it’s the kind of film you couldn’t stop talking about afterwards. I know I’m still thinking about it and how I could never be a part of something like that even if I’m sick. Who’s to say that people who live to be 100 has a more meaningful existence than those who only have a third of that? I’m all for medical advancements but at what cost, y’know.

      Thanks for your excellent review, I believe I’ve commented on it 🙂

      1. Haunting is a good word. As I said over at “The Web”, the film truly never lets go. I saw that you, Ruth, also point that out! Each time I think about it, inexplicable feelings arise. This film is gripping emotionally, socially, scientifically, ethically, spiritually, and more. A well written review. I agree whole-heartedly. I gave it 4/5!

        1. Yes, the title is appropriate isn’t it given how much it takes a hold of you. It’s really an unsettling piece of a controversial subject matter that really needs to be addressed. Interestingly enough, by the end of the film, the ones supposedly ‘without souls’ perhaps have as much heart as the real folks.

  4. I am sure I have commented on this yesterday…ah well

    Lovely review my very good friend. If you remember when I reviewed it a while back I was confused and worried by how calm and ‘matter of fact’ the clones were. Mulligan is a great little actress isn’t she? Knightley…meh hate here 🙂

    Thanks for a brilliant read

    C

    1. Hey sorry your first comment went missing, it happens sometimes to me, too.

      Thanks for the kind words, it’s quite hard to review this one as there’s so much emotion going through me the more I think about it. I try not to use the ‘c’ word in my review in case people don’t want to be spoiled, as I didn’t know it’s about that until I actually read the synopsis of the book 😀

      Mulligan is quickly becoming my fave actress. My hubby Ivan and I are both so impressed by her performance.

  5. I really need to give this movie another watch. I caught it in theaters, and I had a pretty mixed feeling about it. It wasn’t nearly as cold as most people made it out to be, but it still distanced itself from the audience. The premise is wonderful, but I thought the delivery on a couple of the themes seemed rather contradictory, and it threw me off.

    Oh, and I wasn’t really a fan of Garfield’s performance.

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  10. When I was in college, we had to study this film as part of emotional cinema. I was a wreck after watching it, so sad and painful but so stunningly filmed and acted. Along with an outstanding score.

    1. Hello Vinnie! Wow, what a perfect subject for a film course. It’s really heartbreaking but beautifully-crafted. It’s the first time I saw Carey Mulligan and I loved her in this. Garfield was great as well.

      1. It was a perfect choice for the film course indeed. I had so much to write about it and the way it moved me. I did review it the other year and would love to know what you make of my review. It should be in my index.

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