Never, never, never let me go

Its always remarkable when science fiction is repackaged this way.  Rather than being all flash and sparkle, this is a very human story.  It is quite dark and cold, but at the same time a warm heart beats inside.  Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s “acclaimed” novel of the same name, Never Let Me Go is an interesting beast.  Set in England, it centres around three children, Cathy, Ruth and Tommy growing up in a boarding school, then follows them as they go out into the world to meet their fate.  Having read and loved the novel I have been waiting with a high level of anticipation to be able to watch the film.  So much so that rather than waiting til the end of the week when I could have watched it for free, I opted to pay more than the normal ticket price to attend a preview screening this evening.

As soon as I walked out of the cinema at the end I was accosted by one of my coworkers and asked to put a number of stars on it.  Having not really had the time to process how I felt about it that was really difficult (I said 4 out of 5), and even now I don’t know if I can truthfully put a number on it.  The problem with watching films you have been excitedly waiting for is that your expectations tend to be inflated, and rather than enjoying a film for what it is you sit there being underwhelmed.  I think that is especially true with films adapted from beloved books.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t by any means hate Never Let Me Go, I just felt that it was lacking something.

I will start with the cast.  Kiera Knightley is a problem for me.  I don’t really like her, but despite myself I have found more than a few of her recent films to be extremely good (Atonement, The Edge of Love, Pride & Prejudice).  I’m glad that in this film the character she plays is not supposed to be the likeable one, and she does the job admirably.  Ruth is manipulative and scheming, caring little for anything other than how she feels.  The danger with this is that she also wields a fair amount of influence over those around her and tends towards light bullying.  Carey Mulligan is an up and comer, having only a couple of big roles under her belt, but this is her film, and she is its darling.  Cathy narrates the film, and it is from her perspective that we learn about who these children are and what their purpose in life is.  It is hard to describe what it is about her that makes her so likeable, whether it is her naiveté, or her practicality or her big heart.  Maybe it is all of those.  Andrew Garfield is hard to get away from these days.  Having starred in The Social Network last year and soon to be seen in the title role of the new Spiderman reboot, he is all over the place, but I was first impressed by him in his feature film debut, Boy A, a couple of years back.  In this he plays Tommy, the third side of what I guess you would call a love triangle.  The problem here is that while I like Garfield, I’m not sure how I feel about him in this role.  Not that he’s not good, he plays it deeply and well, but there’s some question there for me.

The standout performer in this production as far as I am concerned is Adam Kimmel the Director of Photography, and looking at his resume I can see why.  He also worked on Spike Jonze’s I’m Here, which I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned before.  Ok I had a quick look and while I did mention it, it was before I watched it.  So here you go, its really good.  And it also features Andrew Garfield, although not in a recognisable way.  Anyway, Never Let Me Go looks amazing, and that is down to both the production designers and Kimmel.

I’m going to sum up by saying that I think you should probably watch the film before you read the book (if you haven’t already) and that you should probably do both at your earliest opportunity.  I hope you enjoy them both as much, if not more than I did.

The last person I’m going to mention in connection with the film is Domhnall Gleeson.  Having also popped up as Bill Weasley in the final installment(s) of Harry Potter, and in a very small role in the Coen brothers’ True Grit, I would say that he is going to be an actor to watch.  His performances here and in True Grit were both stand-outs.

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