Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Never Let Me Go

I have to admit that when I saw this film at the Landmark Theater in Houston, I didn’t know much about it, I have not read the book either, but the cast was very appealing, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  "Never Let Me Go" is a passionate film about restraint. Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, the A Team of young British actors, this is a moving and provocative film that initially unsettles, then disturbs and finally haunts.

This beautiful film is an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s highly regarded dystopian novel. Directed by Mark Romanek, this coming-of-age story involves three British friends who are raised with others of their kind in a group home that proves more Orwellian than Dickensian. In time, they timidly make their way into the world, which turns out to be crueler than most of us would, like to believe. The unkindness emerges gradually, teased out through meaningful conversations and significant scenes. The story begins in the 1990s, with the narrator, Kathy played by Carrie Mulligan, who calls herself a “carer,” reminiscing about her childhood while watching a man, Tommy (Andrew Garfield), as he’s being prepared for an operation. Along with their friend Ruth (Keyra Knightley), Tommy and Kathy grew up with hundreds of others in Hailsham, a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. There, watched over by Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling) and the other adults, all called guardians, the children did what children do, playing, fighting, forming friendships, while also receiving peculiar instruction about their unknown horrible future as organ donators.

You initially have only a partial view of their lives, how they came to be at Hailsham and why, you will learn with them.  The film reveals the secrets. The kids wear a bracelet is like a scanning device, the first time you see them do this, it raises a question that, like other Hailsham rituals, it remains unanswered.

The movie slows down at a point and you want to know more. Mark Romanek creates a coherent world, particularly at Hailsham, where the children’s monochromatic uniforms and their muted affect are mirrored by interiors similarly drained of interest. Despite the story’s monochromatic colors, literal and emotional, the scenes at the institution are among the strongest, partly because the mysteries are still hidden. Eventually, the story shifts from the past to the near past, when Kathy, Ruth and Tommy have left Hailsham for some more dilapidated and awful accommodations called the Cottages. Ruth and Tommy are together now, leaving Kathy to watch their affair. Unlike at Hailsham, where they never strayed outside the school’s boundaries, the three friends leave the grounds, at one point taking a trip to find someone referred to as Ruth’s “possible.”

The definition of the “possible” is more like a “receptor”. One of the pleasures of “Never Let Me Go,” comes from the deduction work the story requires, by the way that Romanek groups actors in the image. All this tells you something, as does Ruth and Tommy’s droopy, loose-limbed physicality, which has none of the normal energy of youth.

During one important moment of the film, Kathy stares out at the countryside and in a soft near monotone, voice she explains the film we’ve been watching. There is a large tree that looms over her, the soft light that spills around her. Everything is in its place, including the unnecessarily wrapped up meaning. We understand that what’s missing is the film is the spark of life, the unexpected, by its insistence on its own beauty, obscures the tragedy that the three characters, by their nature, cannot express. However, the film has great acting and for sure this is an unusual story.


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