Sunday, October 3, 2010

Never Let Me Go is an emotional love story masquerading as sci-fi...

Imagine a world where all medical problems have been solved and people live to over 100 years old, simply by cultivating a new breed of donors whose sole existence is to donate their vital organs until they expire. Now imagine that this world isn't some futuristic, sterile future of shiny steel and glass, but that it's already happened in an alternate past in cosy 60's rural England.
Never Let Me Go movie poster
That's the sci-fi premise of Never Let Me Go which allows it have an authenticity that these events may just have happened as the setting is so familiar. However the movie is much more of an emotional love story, than anything which is out of this world. For me and my cinema companion, it was made all the more real having grown up in Britain and recognising the places and scenarios.

The film follows the lives of three of these donors from a special boarding school childhood through to their 'Completion', when they've donated as many organs via transplant as their bodies are physically able to.
Never Let Me Go UK billboard
I went into the movie with no knowledge of the storyline, or having read Japanese-born British author, Kazuo Ishiguro's, novel. The movie is interesting as it doesn't seek to hide the central premise that the children have been bred for this purpose. You can imagine that in an M. Night Shyamalan film that this would be the big twist at the end of the movie, but here it's simply used to propel the story along.

The opening scene even has Carey Mulligan's character, 'Kathy', herself a donor but also a 'Carer' for her fellow donors, watching an already scarred young man about to undergo another operation. So it doesn't try to hide what is happening.
Never Let Me Go film poster
Then the movie flashes back to her 60's childhood and the suspense slowly builds. You wonder why the children get so excited when a 'crop' of second hand damaged toys and bric-a-brac arrive at the school, or the new school teacher tells one of the boys that art and sport is not important.

Against protocol she even tells them, and us the audience, the truth, that they will never grow up to be actors, or bus drivers or live out their dreams, because they are growing up for one purpose and one purpose only, to be used as organ donors in the future. It's all delivered so calmly and with no real histrionics, and the fact it's so readily accepted makes it all the more surreal.

Ultimately the movie is about the true love that develops between 'Kathy' and 'Tommy' (played by Andrew Garfield), and their relationship with Keira Knightley's 'Ruth'.
Never Let Me Go Carey Mulligan poster
It has to be said that the young actors who play the three lead roles at a younger age are almost as good as their older counterparts, but it's really Carey Mulligan's movie.

Carey Mulligan is such a talented actress and has the good fortune to age up or down to suit a role, so playing a school girl or a thirty-something woman is not a problem for her and totally believable. She has such depth in her face and eyes, she conveys so much without saying a word, it's incredible.

I thought she was wonderful when I saw her in An Education, but this movie just confirms in my mind what a versatile actress she is.

Never Let Me Go really is about the drama of their relationships and the sadness of their existence.

I loved the movie as a character study, but the sci-fi fan in me was asking so many questions as the story progressed. Questions about the ethics of what was being done and would everyone really accept it, even if it did provide a cure for all mankind's illnesses, would there not be a railroad of underground supporters helping to save these seemingly doomed 'donors'? Why do the donors so readily accept their own bleak existence, are they bred that way?
Never Let Me Go poster
The funny thing is the movie never really delves into these issues, simply accepts this is the way things are, and you the viewer also has to suspend your disbelief in order to see the emotion and true heart of the story.

Never Let Me Go deserves four **** stars, it's compelling, slow viewing at time, but I dare you not to have a tear or two in your eyes by the end of the movie.
Never Let Me Go tube billboard
Go watch Never Let Me Go and see how the world could have been, or could be in a not too distant future...

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