LFF Review: Never Let Me Go
Review by Jack Foley
IN THE wrong hands Kazuo Ishiguro’s beloved novel Never Let Me Go could have been turned into a mawkish, sentimental movie that shamelessly and shamefully tugged at the heartstrings while putting some of it’s more complex issues by the wayside.
But Mark Romanek, as he proved with One Hour Photo, is much more subtle than that.
Hence his film version of Ishiguro’s novel, which has been adapted by Alex Garland, is a haunting and sometimes ethereal examination of love, loss and accepting one’s fate that stays with you for some time afterwards.
It’s also a film that poses lingering questions.
The film unfolds from the perspective of Kathy (Carey Mulligan), a young woman and carer in her 30s, who recalls her experiences of growing up with her friends Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), at an apparently idyllic country boarding school named Hailsham.
But while the children are encouraged by their teachers to be special, the reasons they are there are more sinister and, as the trio come to realise the fate that awaits them, the emotions they uncover take them on a complex journey that threatens to tear their relationships apart.
Romanek’s film poses many questions, both on an epic existential level, as well as a more intimate one, challenging viewers to question issues of mortality and science as well as love, jealousy, betrayal and loss.
It can make for sombre viewing but consistently plays to the strengths of it’s cast, as well as the keen visual sense of it’s director.
If there’s a criticism, it stems from one of the more nagging questions hanging over the story, which speaks to the notion of acceptance and free will and which, as a result, compromises the emotional impact of the film to a certain degree.
While the decision to play down the science fiction element (which owes more than a passing nod to films like Blade Runner and The Island) may feel, to some, like a missed opportunity.
But this still doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the piece, or the moving nature of the performances.
And what a showcase of British acting talent – whether it’s the three impeccable leads, their brilliant younger selves (as portrayed by Isobel Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell and Charlie Rowe) or the supporting likes of Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins and Andrea Riseborough – all make their mark in some way.
Romanek, meanwhile, proves himself to be a highly adept and astute filmmaker who has handled the difficult material with a great deal of sensitivity and intelligence that should endear him to fans of the book.
Never Let Me Go is therefore a thoughtful and thought provoking experience that captivates from beginning to end – and marks a great way to start the 54th BFI London Film Festival.
Running time: 105mins
- Read our review
- Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan open 54th London Film Festival
- Never Let Me Go Premiere Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer