What makes us human and what is our purpose in life are questions we’ve been struggling with since the beginning of time. Clearly we can say that having an emotional tie to another human is important to this equation. And yet feeling so alone and longing for some one’s touch is a human characteristic as well. Of course, these emotions are the key and are at the core of art and creation. These questions and themes are explored in Mark Romanek’s new film, Never Let Me Go, the adaptation of the best selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro of the same name.
Never Let Me Go is separated in the three distinct parts and follows three children (Kathy, Tommy and Ruth played by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley). The film starts in the late sixties attending school at a prestigious countryside boarding school, Hailsham. The rules at this school are strict. Every rule instilled is to keep the children safe from the outside world. Here our three protagonist form a friendship, the romance between Tommy and Ruth and later on a sultry love triangle. A stunning revelation of this school and its students will bring an audience to an interesting threshold. [SPOILERS AHEAD] The school is a institution for clones. The students lives there are only to prolong the lives of their donor counterparts. When a client’s needs a liver transplant, they only need to obtain one from their clone. Hailsham is a human farm. This film ventures into interesting questions of morality but yet these questions are not really explored as a whole with evil governments, the greater good of man or the placement of the state, this film focuses on the love triangle between Kathy, Tommy and Ruth.
Understandably, this is a bold direction of the film and I must say, it works for the most part. But the feelings are looming whether or not the entire film is effective. I argue that it does not. Although very ambitious, Never Let Me Go, never fully establishes it’s world. Albeit an alternate world, I felt the film was poorly put together and shocking uninterestingly visually. Mark Romanek is celebrated music video director and his first feature, One Hour Photo, showed promise of a great filmmaker. Never Let Me Go is a poor example of his work and not a landmark.
The actors are the reason to see this picture at all. I was amazed at the full range from notably Keira Knightley’s Ruth. Confused, angry, bitter and sometimes crass, Knightley’s Ruth becomes sympathetic and sweet. At times cunning and spiteful, you do feel the full weight of Knightley’s performance as she shines in this supporting role. Mulligan and Garfield show great promise in a bright career and hopefully, Garfield doesn’t get typecast and sidetracked by his next role as Peter Parker in the new Spider-Man films. There is a sense of wonder as these characters are brought into the real world for the first time.
But overall, this film doesn’t come together in a neat way. It’s somewhat dull and at times silly and so hard to take seriously. I couldn’t get emotionally invested into this movie and I feel the movie was getting in the way of itself. When the crux of the film comes down to an art contest in determining the difference between real love and fake love then your film is a silly film. It feels as if this film is confused on what it’s trying to be, whether that be a serious period English film or an interesting sci-fi picture in the vein of Children of Men. At times, it does feel it wants both but in the end it fails at both.