Review: Never Let Me Go


Directed by: Mark Romanek
Written by:Screenplay by Alex Garland based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
Starring: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins
Released: March 31, 2011
Grade: B-

I’m not really sure how much I should reveal about the premise of Never Let Me Go.  I haven’t read the much loved novel, named the best of 2005 by Time Magazine.  I also hadn’t heard too much about the film prior to its release.  The trailer makes it looks like the elegantly told yarn of two girls falling for the same guy.

That impression stayed with me during the film’s opening moments.  Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were three pubescent youngsters who attended the Hailsham boarding school in England.  This was a strict school.  Their headmaster (Rampling) laid down firm ground rules and the students went about their day in a regimented fashion.

It was the Kathy who first developed a crush on Tommy.  They shared a few sweet moments but things changed when her best friend, Ruth, snuck in and stole Tommy’s affections.  Best described as shy and timid, Kathy’s reaction was to do nothing.  She stepped back and quietly watched the developing relationship between Ruth and Tommy.

By this point, we were about 25 minutes into the film.  I’d finished my popcorn and reclined back into my seat, comfortable with the way things were going.  Then, something happened.  There was a scene in a classroom that left me stunned.  I wanted to jump up in the crowded theatre and scream out “what???”

Those familiar with the book or who have heard other reviews might already know what I’m referring to.  I’m choosing to keep my mouth quiet.  The reason is simple – I want others to be surprised too.  It's the head-scratching twist that I'll remember the film for most.  I want to talk to other friends about it but I’m going to have to wait until they’ve seen it first.

Even with the twist, the heart of this film doesn’t change.  I’m going to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare and call it a tale of “star crossed lovers”.  People fall in love every day but sometimes, fate has other plans for them.  That’s my overly simplistic way of summing up this complex romantic drama.

Whilst I was intrigued by certain elements, I left the theatre with a feeling of disappointment.  It was like I hadn’t seen the whole story.  I realise that’s part of the film’s mystery but I was still frustrated.  It didn’t quite fit with my pragmatic disposition.  I wanted more information.  I wanted answers.

Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice), Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) are three of the finest twenty-something actors working today.  That said, I had trouble buying into the romance shared between them.  Maybe it’s because of their character’s detached personalities but perhaps it’s also a fault of the screenplay.  More time needed to be spent developing their relationships.

Kazuo Ishiguro’s book may be a hauntingly beautiful read but this film hasn’t inspired me to read it.