Never Let Me Go
dir Mark Romanek
scr Alex Garland
prd Alex Garland, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
with Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Isobel Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, Ella Purnell, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, Nathalie Richard, David Sterne
release US 15.Sep.10, UK 11.Feb.11
10/UK Fox 1h43
Never Let Me Go
On the beach: Knightley, Mulligan and Garfield

rampling hawkins riseborough
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Never Let Me Go Based on the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, this haunting drama may be set in a parallel reality, but what it has to say about human hopes and societal ambition is deeply relevant. It's also beautifully directed and acted.

After a medical breakthrough in the 1950s, children are genetically created to grow up to be organ donors, hugely extending the human lifespan. Although the children rarely make it to their mid-20s. One of these is Kathy (Meikle Small, then Mulligan), who grew up in a special school with her best friend Ruth (Purnell, then Knightley). Kathy has a crush on the school oddball Tommy (Rowe, then Garfield), but it's Ruth who makes her move. And this action could have repercussions if organ-harvesting deferrals for couples are granted, as rumour has it.

The plot is packed with these kinds of hints and insinuations, as the children gather information about what's real from hearsay and speculation, fragments of captured conversations and one particularly outspoken teacher (Hawkins). Otherwise, they're forced to make their own way in life until the system calls on them. And the story essentially says that, even though their lives are short, the same yearnings and realities apply.

Obviously, the story has potent ramifications, echoing the idea that the West uses the Third World in much this way: limiting others' lifespans to lengthen our own. Ishiguro hints that someone must pay for our progress, and those people have souls that might be nobler than our own. Fortunately, Garland and Romanek keep these themes submerged in the romantic storyline, focussing on the three central characters and letting us find our own larger truths lurking within the extremely emotional series of events.

The younger actors are brilliantly cast, offering clever, complex performances all their own before handing off to their starrier older selves for the meatier stuff. Mulligan and Garfield are especially strong, as they carry us through the film's most unsettling scenes in a beautifully understated way. Romanek, cast and crew have gorgeously captured the sleek, almost offhanded surfaces of Ishiguro's book as well as the layered depth of meaning underneath. It's a riveting film that gracefully leaves us chilled by our own humanity.

cert 12 themes, sexuality, violence 13.Oct.10 lff

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall