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Never Let Me Go

A movie directed by Mark Romanek

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A Film That Can Uplift With Its Power Despite The Grim and Cruel Core of its Narrative....

  • Mar 26, 2011
Looking at the film’s title, one wouldn’t be hard-pressed to think that it is a love story; and while it is in its own way, the film has proven to be a lot more than that. Based on the novella with the same name written by Kazuo Ishiguro; the Japanese never cease to amaze me when it comes to themes of remorse, existentialism, life and the way they take a grim premise within a heart-warming execution. This film was directed by Mark Romanek with screenplay by Alex Garland; and it debuted in the 37th Telluride Festival with critical acclaim. The film’s core premise reminded me a little of “The Island” albeit to a very small degree. While that film’s focus is action, this one revolves around the drama of real basic human needs and behavior.

1950’s in an alternate world and during this time, the Hailsham Academy flourishes. This school looks like your ordinary private school unless you pay extra attention to a few details. There are unusual lessons about manners, wall scanners that read the students’ nondescript wristbands, and stories that were told to be true to keep the children from leaving the grounds for any reason. In this isolated community, Kathy (Isobel Meikle-Small) and Ruth (Ella Purnell) both fall for the same boy, Tommy (Charlie Rowe); and this love triangle continues on into their young adult lives (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield) with Kathy becoming ignored due to Ruth’s more openly aggressive ways. Kathy is such a person filled with loyalty to her friends, but as the years go by, she becomes filled with frustration and inner conflict, as she is unable to connect with anyone else.

                                Carey Mulligan in "Never Let Me Go."

                               Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan in "Never Let Me Go."

“Never Let Me Go” is an effective dystopian human drama. It is a film about mortality, regret and existentialism. It makes one ponder just what is more important; love, life, behavior and friendships. The film has strong themes of ‘making the most out of life”; that whatever light however quick to flicker and die has the right to live and be content; at least for the remainder of its illuminating period. Just how can anyone deal with a life expected to flicker so quickly? How would you react if you knew your time in this world is only meant for a short time?

The film has a lot intricacies to its core plot. The film has a very grim look at this alternate world; this world is desperate to find the cure for disease that it is willing to harvest human organs. In some ways, it has a commentary as to how society can determine humanity’s destiny. I found the film to have a powerful message about society’s ability to deny as long as the needs of the majority are met, then the needs of the few can be ignored. The film is pretty cruel at times, I would be very interested to see how this world came about and how the majority can come to such a grim solution to their issues. I suppose the novel would hold more answers, this film however, goes into its premise looking into these people’s lives. Their lives are much more short so regret, remorse and frustrations have a lot more significant impact in their lives.

                                   Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in "Never Let Me Go."

                                  Carey Mulligan as Kathy, Keira Knightley as Ruth and Andrew Garfield as Tommy in "Never Let Me Go."

                                  Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield in "Never Let Me Go."
As much as the premise of the film is cruel, it also displays the resiliency of the human spirit. The children in the academy seemed to have accepted their fate. I am sure it was a matter of conditioning, but no amount of conditioning could ever keep the development of an adult brain at bay. These were crucial elements to be sure; as one would wonder why they don’t just flee or go into hiding. They have invested to their fate; they have surrendered and maybe as for what they are; they see this as their purpose and may indeed define them. Do they have a soul? I cringed when they answered: “no one was asking“.

The film is exquisitely shot, and gives the viewer the impression that in this dystopian world, everything is in order, clean and organized. It mostly takes place in the countryside, and the present day may be a ‘future’ but it closely resembles our own during this period. The performances were top-notch; from the characters’ teenage years to their more adult years, the lived they breathed and they felt as I found myself attached to them as I found myself feeling pity for them. There are moments of sheer emotional impact; as unhappiness, confusion, even jealousy and anger, sometimes even hope are all on grand display for the audience.

Despite its setting and some elements of its premise, director Romanek never tries to make a sci-fi film but instead focuses on the humanity of its characters. I found this refreshing, bold and just inspiring. It is a film that is tragic, bleak, cruel and yet for some reason it gives the viewer a semblance of hope. After all, love can indeed give us light and at the same time, it can give us that much more to lose. It is something that can awaken our senses; and for good or ill, it is a part of being human. “Never Let Me Go” is a grim film with a cruel premise, and yet it manages to shine a light in a corner; and that light may be enough to illuminate a life.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Never Let Me Go" Poster art for "Never Let Me Go"

A Film That Can Uplift With Its Power Despite The Grim and Cruel Core of its Narrative.... A Film That Can Uplift With Its Power Despite The Grim and Cruel Core of its Narrative.... A Film That Can Uplift With Its Power Despite The Grim and Cruel Core of its Narrative....

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April 02, 2011
I was going to read this only after I finished watching the disc but it stopped half way... so here I am :-)
April 15, 2011
Did you finish the movie?
April 02, 2011
Spectacularly done William! I haven't read the book on which this is based but your critique has piqued my curiosity for sure. I briefly encountered previews for the film but wasn't near as intrigued as your review and the comments from our fellow Lunchers have inspired. Thanks buddy, I have to check this one out now. Truly I'm quite curious now.
April 15, 2011
I do think you will appreciate this one. I mean, you are used to Kon and Oshii's works in Japanese films. You'll be right at home :)
March 30, 2011
I'm glad you saw this and liked it. It really is grim and cruel and left me speechless.
March 31, 2011
I know what you mean. It almost felt like a pure portrayal of death.
March 28, 2011
Sounds good WP
March 27, 2011
I wasn't as fond of this as you were, but the performances was great. I think it should have been directed by someone who would have done more with it. Haneke would have made an interesting choice and certainly would've expanded on the themes.
March 31, 2011
Not sure if I'd like someone else to direct it; I need to read the book and absorb it before I decide. For me, this was powerful, not surprised why some people didn't like it. But movies like this feel more real, and I appreciate it. I really like @'s fair viewpoint (gave it a 7/10) and @'s (7/10 also) review on it too, but some people I've seen just cannot get it and complaining about a movie that is supposed to be depressing does not make sense....makes you wonder sometimes if some people actually watched it.
March 31, 2011
I like depressing, but that wasn't why I rated it as I did. My issue was with the direction and the unoriginal ideas. Cloning for organ harvesting has been done to death and it's one of those plot points that just pisses me off these days because it can't be done in an engaging or interesting way anymore. It's just too worn out. That said, I did love the performances.
March 31, 2011
I wasn't referring to you when I said some folks who complained that it was too depressing. Some folks don't like movies like this and I respect that; but some just didn't get it, especially when one says that there was no point to its depressing themes....

The unoriginal idea came from the source material, granted as it was written by a Japanese writer, I am sure there was more to it. For me, cloning for organs is indeed an unoriginal premise, this was just another way to tell the story. This took the loss and thoughts of a clone to a degree where they had it but no one cared. It was subtle and wasn't too far-reaching and yes, the performances were awesome.
March 26, 2011
I remember leaving the film feeling as if I had experienced a death. That doesn't mean I hated the film; I gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Still, there was a palpable sense of resignation. The movie is beautiful but haunting.
March 26, 2011
Exactly. Well-put, Chris.
More Never Let Me Go (2010 movie) reviews
review by . April 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
No clones for me, period!
This film asks more questions than it attempts to answer, if that’s the premise of the science fiction author, that is. It involves the world of human clones where their existence is purely to provide organ replacements to the “originals”.       Well, based on that, the author then attempt to explore the human side of the clones? Granted, they are as real as the humans and therefore ought to have emotions as they are. Then, the story hints that those who …
review by . March 05, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
28-year old Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan) reminisces about her life, starting in her unique boarding school, Hailsham. The children were raised strictly but well-cared for and raised to know they have a valuable purpose in life. A distressed new teacher tells the children what that purpose is, but it seems they already know and accept it utterly. A childhood love triangle between Kathy and her classmates Ruth and Tommy has a lasting effect on the three; years later as they fulfill their destinies, Kathy …
Quick Tip by . January 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Amazing actors wasting their time in a story that literally undoes itself not just once but twice. I watched it twice just to make sure I didn't have a stroke. Nope, I'm stroke free the movie just sucked despite the best intentions of an amazing cast.
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Hard to hold
NEVER LET ME GO   Written by Alex Garland   Directed by Mark Romanek   Starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield      Famed music video director, Mark Romanek, takes on Kazuo Ishiguro’s much loved and heavily praised novel, NEVER LET ME GO, as his second venture into feature filmmaking.  It is a daring challenge indeed given the underlying questions about the value of human life but Romanek takes the challenge head on.  …
review by . January 02, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Never Let Me Go it's one of those adaptations that uses great technical execution in order to cover it's flaws in story's narration. The story revolves around this love and friendship triangle between Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) formed while spending their childhood inside an english boarding school, that would keep the children away from their freedom in order to make them unaware of the true living outside the "fence". …
review by . April 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
If I were to pick an “it” girl and boy right now, by which I mean an actress and actor who are receiving media attention and celebrity more for their star potential than for their achievements on the screen thus far, I might pick Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.  Mulligan caused quite a stir (and rightly so) with her performance in last year’s “An Education;” Garfield drew a lot of attention playing Jesse Eisenberg’s best friend/enemy in “The Social …
Quick Tip by . March 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Not sure where to begin with Never Let Me Go. I liked certain aspects of it and yet also was frustrated with its slightly pretentious nature. The main issue I had was that the film tries to achieve some level of sophistication and artistry that it never really managaes to grasp and this is due to the fact that the filmmakers treat the material as if it were really original which it isn't. Right off the bat, we've all seen the youthful love triangle film, the British boarding school …
Quick Tip by . April 19, 2011
Unreal and too many loopholes. If it's not a science fiction and just a drama, it's a little lengthy!
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Walking out of "Never Let Me Go," I felt as if I had experienced a death. This isn't to suggest that the film pushed me away. If anything, I was deeply drawn in, entirely taken by the sheer power it had on me emotionally. I'm fairly certain I wasn't the only one; I sensed solemnity in the audience I sat with, the profound feelings of shock, loss, grief, anger, and helplessness. The film projects all that, as if saying, "It's not fair. It shouldn't have to be this …
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About this movie


Never Let Me Go
 is an upcoming dystopian drama film based on a novel of the same name written by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is directed by Mark Romanek and stars Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. Alex Garland wrote the screenplay for the film. The film is produced by DNA Films and Film4. It will premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, and will open the 54th London Film Festival. It will be distributed theatrically by Fox Searchlight Pictures in the United States on 15 September 2010. In the United Kingdom it will be distributed theatrically on 14 January 2011, by Twentieth Century Fox.

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Screen Writer: Alex Garland, Kazuo Ishiguro
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
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