Re:View – ‘Never Let Me Go’

The Arts

This is one of the new generation of SF movies that concentrate on character more than hardware, so that you could bracket it with ‘Moon’ and the underrated ‘Mr Nobody’ (see trailer on this site). Tommy (Andrew Garfield), Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Ruth (Keira Knightly) grow up in an alternative-timeline 1950s-style boarding school where the rules are strict and disobedience is swiftly punished.

After being told the truth about their lives by a kind-hearted teacher (Sally Hawkins), they must decide how to handle their approaching cruel fate. Two main problems swiftly arise that scupper the film. One is director Mark Romanek’s decision to lens the story as a pretty, slow-burning mood-piece that’s closer in tone to ‘Innocence’ than Kazuo Ishiguro’s source novel.

The other is Alex Garland’s screenplay, which can’t decide how much of a mystery to make the children’s situation. I have great suspicions about Garland; he has yet to adapt a film that fully convinces. Here, he gives us information at the opening credits which half gives the game away. A science fiction premise needs to be believable, but he gives us no reason to believe in something so ethically wrong, because he refuses to show us the outside world responsible for the decision. By dwelling so much on the internal lives of the trio, we’re convinced that we’re still in a present-day world where morality matters – and yet the premise undermines traditional moralities.

It’s left to headmistress Charlotte Rampling to info-dump the trio’s situation in a single scene, so their mystery ceases to be a mystery at all, and becomes a slow and somewhat depressing character piece instead. It’s a shame, because the film is beautiful to look at, and I wanted to be convinced of the central idea. But, like the oddly similar ‘Innocence’ it doesn’t let in enough information to allow the film to take flight.

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