Review: Never Let Me Go (TIFF)
PLOT: In an alternate reality, most major diseases have been cured, and life expectancy greatly extended, thanks to the use of donors . These are young adults who are raised from infancy with the expectation that one day they'd make a series of donations, which leaves them with a very short life expectancy. The story follows three donors, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley) from adolescence to adulthood.
REVIEW: NEVER LET ME GO is a film I respect more than like. I respect it because it's such a well crafted, beautifully directed piece of work. However, it's also an extremely depressing, downbeat film, to the extent that you'll feel like walking into traffic once the credits roll.
Now, there's nothing wrong with a sad film. NEVER LET ME GO is a tragedy, and I get that you can't exactly slap a happy ending on a film like this without it seeming ridiculous. But, at the same time, it's so oppressively downbeat, that sitting though it becomes something of a chore. The film also suffers from being a tad stuffy, as I really feel that throughout the film, the characters are kept at arm's length. By the time tragedy hits it may not be as moving as you'd hope as you won't really feel for the characters the way you should.
That's probably not for a lack of trying though, as an effort is made to establish a bond between the three throughout the film, which, it should be noted, is based on a book by author Kazuo Ishiguro. Essentially it's a love story between Kathy and Tommy, who pretty much fall in love at first sight as children. Sadly, their love isn't consummated due in part to Kathy's reserved nature, and the interference of the more confident Ruth, who has her own designs on young Tommy.
The casting here is excellent, with Mulligan carrying the majority of the film. It definitely proves that her turn in AN EDUCATION was no fluke, and she gives a powerful performance as this reserved character. In fact, she's not unlike the character played by Anthony Hopkins in REMAINS OF THE DAY, which was also based on a book by Ishiguro. Eventually, she becomes a carer, with her job being a caretaker to those that are about to make donations, which suits her reserved nature- although I did find that she could have been a little more tortured about her lot in life. Alas, I suppose that if you're raised from infancy to believe your sole purpose is to die so others might live, it becomes sadly normal watching your friends die.
The new SPIDER MAN, Andrew Garfield gets another strong role as Tommy, who's more intelligent and creative then he lets on as a young man. His relationship with the more sensual Ruth, as played by Knightley is believable, as one could easily see her as someone that could alienate one's affections from the person they should actually be with. Knightley role initially comes off as two-dimensional, until the final act of the film, where she's the only character that I truly felt sympathy for, as she's the one that seemed the most- human.
While I would have liked more warmth in the characterization, one can't argue that director Mark Romanek has crafted a beautiful looking film. Despite the fact that most of the film takes place in the eighties, the film is given a slightly dystopian look, and, fascinatingly, no references to the pop culture of the time are made. I suspect this might say something about how, in a world where we can live extraordinarily long lives, we might lose a great deal of passion, resulting in less powerful music, or films being made. The only references we get are a single song, Never Let Me Go, which is credited to a fictional singer named Anne Bridgewater, but is actually an original work sung by contemporary singer Jane Monheit. We also get a quick glimpse of a rather vacuous looking British musical, and a moronic sitcom- both of which seem to have been made especially for this film.
Overall, NEVER LET ME GO is a good film, and one worth seeing. However, for me it doesn't rise into the top echelon of films I've seen at TIFF this year- although it did succeed in depressing the hell out of me, which might have been the intention after all.
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