The perfect children in their perfect clothes and perfect manners at first seem innocently peculiar, but through subtle hints
and a reveal 30 minutes in, we soon understand that something about this seemingly idyllic world is amiss. The children exist
for a specific purpose unbeknownst to them, and to us, until a particularly caring teacher at the school decides it’s her duty
to explain the brutal truth. With no parents in sight and no chance of changing their fate, the children live on as they had
before having knowledge of their purpose.
Complications arise when they mature into adults and
a love triangle forms; Tommy and Ruth falling for each
other as Kathy watches from the sides, powerless to
reveal her true feelings for Tommy.
Forced to confront difficult emotions like jealousy and
heartbreak, their pain is compounded when the teens
are finally allowed to leave the sheltered confines of
the school and discover the shocking fate that awaits
them; a fate that causes the trio to question their very
reason for existence.
Never Let Me Go jumps ahead to the mid-1980s, as 18-year-olds Kathy, Tommy and Ruth (played in their adult form by
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley) are moved into something of a halfway house called the Cottages, to
await "completion" of their duties. By now Ruth and Tommy are a couple, and Kathy is left to pine for Tommy silently with her
nose in a novel. As tensions between the threesome come to a head, Kathy decides to take up the position of a "carer,"
leaving her friend behind, only to be reunited under humbling circumstances a decade later.
the surface. Mulligan has never been better. As Kathy, she wholly embodies a young woman who has spent her whole life
yearning for something so close, but unreachable due to an inflexible fate. Kathy may be the shy, quiet one of the group, but
she need not verbalize when she can say so much with a pair of tear-ridden eyes and a faint twinge of a facial muscle. The
shear level of anxiety and heartbreak that she conveys with facial expression alone is staggering. Garfield shows his
dramatic prowess as the shy, lumbering Tommy and Knightley breathes a humanity into the conniving and tragically jealous
Ruth. credit should go to all three actors who play the characters as children, while the marvellous Sally Hawkins delivers a
brief-but-touching performance as one of Hailsham's more compassionate teachers. And Charlotte Rampling is also very
good as the ambiguous headteacher of Hailsham, Miss Emily.
One problem with the film, inevitably, is that it is hard to lose yourself in characters who will not help themselves; never once
do these kids even posit the nature of attempting to flee, and though this might have risked delineating things into an action
film, it at least would have demonstrated a little more passion to survive on their part, confused and disorientated though
they understandably are.
The secret at the heart of Never Let Me Go is genuinely distressing, and yet when it finally comes to light, the film remains
steadfastly understated. Never Let Me Go is a beautifully crafted meditation on what it means to be human. The disturbing
power of the story speaks for itself here thanks to the luscious cinematography, stirring score and wonderful performances.
The film’s bleak final phase offers up its share of
disturbing sights the film is still full of potent vagaries
right up to the end. There is the grim inevitability that
has been mostly shrouded to this point, and it is
dealt with well in the third act, resolving neither to
exploitation nor to overly tasteful cutting away. "Never
Let Me Go" is a motion picture that keeps you
guessing, shocks you with the awful truth and then
tears your emotions apart. However, as sad and bleak
as this movie is, its exceptional story is even more
spellbinding - especially given the level talent involved.
"Never Let Me Go" is also oddly compelling. A
fascinating sense of mystery paired with a character-
driven story that is intensified by truly terrific
performances by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly and
Andrew Garfield make for a rewarding cinematic
experience - even if it does cause you to feel utterly
March 1, 2011
Review - " Never Let Me Go " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Never Let Me Go
Directed by: Mark Romanek
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightely, Andrew Garfield, Sally
Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling
The meaning and purpose of life, exactly what is it to be human?
These are some of the questions posed, but not answered, in
director Mark Romanek powerful adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005
novel Never Let Me Go. Along the way the screenwriters explore the
feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal. Expect romance, poignancy
and quiet beauty in this sci-fi tale with a retro setting.
The film kicks off with a caption explaining that there was a
breakthrough in medical science in 1952 leading, only a decade later,
to people regularly living beyond 100.
With the help of a sad-eyed narrator named Kathy H., played by
Carey Mulligan, we’re transported to Hailsham, a boarding school for
"special" students located in a 1970s English countryside. Amongst
hundreds of their peers and a handful of strict teachers, pre-teen
Kathy (Isobel Meikle-Smal), Tommy (Charlie Rowe) and Ruth (Ella
Purnell) live seemingly normal lives, chatting coyly and participating in
art and sports, cut off from the world and existing only in their
seemingly idyllic bubble.
Although they could not be more different - Kathy plain, quiet and
kind, Ruth beautiful, headstrong and cruel, Tommy shy, troubled and
angry - they nevertheless form a powerful bond that helps the
children navigate their insular world.
Knowing the secret of their fate is not imperative
before seeing the film, in fact not knowing is a key
aspect of what makes the subject matter so
powerful. You’re invested in the characters’ lives,
and by the end you’ll find it as hard to accept their
destiny as they do.
Casting is spot-on and the child versions of Kathy,
Tommy and Ruth not only physically resemble their
elder incarnations, but also manage to convey their
varying levels of confidence and their subtle
Carey Mulligan delivers a subtle, nuanced
performance as Kathy, her wonderfully expressive
face hinting at the hurt and pain bubbling beneath