Saturday, August 30, 2014

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Never Let Me Go"The breakthrough in medical science came in 1952

Doctors could now cure the previous incurable

By 1967, life expectancy passed 100 years"

And so begins Never Let Me Go, a downbeat adaptation of a book I've never had the pleasure of reading by Kazuo Ishiguro. This film is an exercise in understatement; rarely have I seen a film that's so emotional and yet avoids bravado and manages to depict these emotions in such a gentle way. This is no straight-forward drama and there's an unconventional element to the story that I feel would be best to keep secret from the potential viewer. Unfortunately, it's difficult to discuss/critique the film without disclosing that element. With that said, the secret comes out very early into the movie so don't feel that I'm spoiling anything for you.

Besides a brief opening scene, the film opens in 1978 at a boarding school called Hailsham. While headmistress Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling) gives her daily announcement to the students, it becomes clear that Hailsham is not the typical boarding school. The health of the students is greatly important and the students' existence is a sheltered one, completely cut off from the world outside the boundaries of the school. Students are at the age where romantic ideals begin to blossom and young Kathy H. takes a liking to a boy named Tommy. Those wondering what the purpose of Hailsham is don't have to wait very long as a disenchanted guardian named Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) soon enlightens them that their purpose is to grow up and donate their vital organs before their "short-life" will be completed. As this chapter of the film comes to a close, Kathy watches her friend Ruth and Tommy grow close. These childhood scenes are handled with great sentiment, but also with great austerity.

The next two segments take place in 1985 and then 1994, where Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield take on the roles of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy. This second part takes place at The Cottages, where the three Hailsham students have their first contact with the outside world and their sexual awareness comes to full fruition. It's here that we learn a bit more about the students' purpose, as well as watch some characters struggle with their already pre-determined fate. "Completion," the third part of the film is arguably the most tragic where hope and optimism leads to sad acceptance.

Despite being only 103 minutes, Never Let Me Go manages to tell a pretty full story and show characters completely evolve from naïve children to naïve, but optimistic adults. Watching these characters evolve is heartbreaking and the way the film burrows into your emotional center with such quiet nuance is astounding. Rarely do elements fall together so perfectly in a film that they completely immerse you in what you're watching and in it's own a soft, sad way this film absolutely casts a spell. This is not a film that will appeal to a wide audience, but I personally found it to be quite masterful.

The film's score by Rachel Portman is one of the most effective musical scores I've heard in 2010. The music evokes such sadness it becomes a key element to the success of the film as a whole. The picturesque photography by cinematographer Adam Kimmel is poetic and beautiful, static yet graceful and adds an additional level of poignancy that the screenwriter could not have foreseen.

As for acting, we get to watch three very promising young actors do some wonderful work. The most surprising is Keira Knightley who gives such an honest portrayal I forgot I was watching Knightley. Ditching any glamor or sharp-tongued wit, she plays the insecure, jealous, and frightened Ruth marvelously. Garfield continues to establish himself as one of the strongest up-and-coming actors at work today. He gets such pathos out of his mix of sadness and optimism; Watch Garfield's face as he learns the truth about deferrals and the way his expression quietly goes from hopefulness to helplessness. Contrast this with his acclaimed performance in The Social Network and you have an actor building an impressive body of work. Meanwhile, Carey Mulligan continues to prove that she is something special and refreshing in the film industry. What an elegant, immensely talented actress she is and her work here is brilliant. Mulligan is a true actress, something Hollywood is lacking these days and her performance here is so powerful, yet completely low-key.

There is something so brave and unexpected about taking a premise rooted in science-fiction and, in doing so, making a deeply moving human drama and a profound, meditative statement on life, death, and humanity. Again, I've never read the book but I wonder if the book is as much of an emotional journey as the film. I would never call this film "uplifting," but the tragic, beautiful ending is one of the most life-affirming endings of 2010.

Never Let Me Go had much more of an impact the second time I watched it. It seemed more heartbreaking, more poignant, more powerful, and more beautiful than it did the first time. It's a deeply emotional viewing experience that gripped my emotions in a way few films have. While highly praised by some critics, it's been largely overshadowed by other films of 2010. Never Let Me Go is as elegant, thought-provoking, and moving as films can get. It's undoubtedly one of the best films of 2010.


As a 35 year-old-male with stage-4 cancer, I was easily able to relate to the three main characters in this film. The thing that I got from the movie was that it was not the issue of death itself that affected the characters, it was the feeling that there was no time to make up for past mistakes. A great feeling of guilt and regret along with the knowledge that the friendship would soon be over gave the film an even more emotional element not seen in other films. I cannot think of any other movie that has had the emotional effect on me that this one has. The day I received the movie, I watched it twice and promptly put the DVD back into the mailbox so I would not watch it again. Later that night while I was lying in my bed, I started thinking about the movie. Then I started to cry, something I had not done in a very long time. No movie had ever given me the reaction that this one did. "Never Let Me Go" is a movie I would recommend to everyone.

Buy Never Let Me Go (2010) Now

WARNING: This review, like 80 percent of the other reviews here, does contain spoilers. This is a shame but the nature of this film simply requires the insertion of these spoilers in order to discuss the work. If you want to experience the full impact of this work, DO NOT read any of these reviews, including this one, until you have finished the book.

After all of these reviews it would be difficult for me to add anything new other than my personal opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), and the impact this work had on me while I was watching it, and indeed, the impact which remains with me. This is not a movie which I will soon forget. I realize that tastes in reading differ widely and this is good. Some will love this work as I did; others will despise it. I personally feel it is one of the best works; one of the better movies, I have watched over the past few years. But that being said, the film version of the novel is simply my cuppa and I fully realize that not everyone will share my taste...again, this is good. If we all liked the same thing...boring!

Now here is the first spoiler and it is a big one: The thrust of this entire film concerns the ethics of human cloning. This of course came to the attention of us all when Dolly the Sheep was cloned and there was much speculation as to the ethics and wisdom of human cloning. Now it will not take the viewer very long to figure this "mystery" section of the film out even though the film has skillfully led the reader in a round about way with little hints here and there. The viewer will very quickly realize that something is "just not right" about the situation as described.

This story is told though the voice of Kathy H. who is currently a "Carer," and a graduate of a very exclusive school. Her job is to travel around England and give care to those who are in the final phase of acting their part as "donors." Kathy is finishing her time as a "Carer," and is about to begin the next phase of her life.

The story is told in a series of reminiscences as told by Kathy as she remembers her time at Hailsham, the exclusive school mentioned above. The story centers around three primary characters, Kathy, the teller, and her two best friends, Tommy and Ruth.

Of course the reader will eventually place all the pieces of these intricate and detailed reminiscences together and figure out that all of these children have been cloned for the express purpose of harvesting their at a time, until they die. This is done when they become older and of age.

Now some have classified this work as Science Fiction. That would be an unfair assessment and could be likened to classifying `1984.' or `Brave New World," as Science Fiction. No, this work falls more or less into the category of social observations...what if scenario...not really a futuristic society, but rather a society that simply is; in this day and time...speculative fiction I suppose you could call it.

It is interesting to note that one once has the film offered the opinion of the rightness or wrongness of the situation. It has merely laid out the story and lets the reader shudder and become rather ill when they realize what is happening and allows the viewer to come to their own conclusions. The filming style is extremely detailed, dealing with emotions, facts and speculation and is filled with instances of digression; a method of telling the story I find extremely appealing and fits my taste in reading perfectly. Some find this cumbersome and a bit boring...I do not. I think the author's prose is beautiful and it is extremely thought provoking.

I found myself becoming extremely emotional while watching this work and admit that it touched me. Much has been written as to the fact that many feel it is unbelievable that the characters in this work can accept their fate, not make any great attempts to "escape" and accept their lot in life (for the most part) as natural. I personally found this aspect of the work to be spot on and feel the author was making some very good points here. All of us, in one way or another, accept social norms and accept our particular lot in life. We like to tell ourselves differently, but for the most part it is true. History pretty well teachers us that the majority of mankind, down through the ages, has been pretty sheep like in their obedience to social norms. Think about it. It has happened in the past and is still happening to us today when we kid ourselves, believing that we are too smart and too sophisticated to fall into such a trap. No, for me, the premise of the story is all too believable...which sort of makes me scared and sad at the same time.

Please do not that there are not explosions, car chases, desperate and exciting scenes of escape efforts, no violence, no special effects. This is a thinking film and to be quite frank, one of the most horrifying films I have seen in years.

I also might suggest that you read the book on which this work was based. Like the movie, it is truly a haunting story.

Like this film or hate this film, I seriously doubt that any viewer will not remember this one long after it has been read.

Don Blankenship

The Ozarks

Read Best Reviews of Never Let Me Go (2010) Here

This movie brings up many philosophical questions about life, death, love, and what it means to be human. It leaves itself open to many interpretations, and will leave you thinking about the larger meanings and messages long after the film is ended.


First off, I think one main message of the film is about how certain forgotten classes of people are used and tossed aside by the rest of us, to make our lives more luxurious or comfortable. The only way we can manage to live with the knowledge that we are profiting off this exploitation, is to pretend these people don't exist. We know there is child labor, and sweatshops, and that many of our clothes/sneakers/electronics are made in 3rd-world factories in borderline slave conditions, often by children who have no hope for a better life. But we push this inconvenient truth out of our minds in order to enjoy the luxuries these forgotten people make possible. It was interesting that in the film, almost every "regular" person who came in contact with the schoolchildren (deliverymen, maintenance workers, etc.), seemed very uncomfortable around them and wanted to avoid interaction with them. They did not want to be reminded of the cost innocent people are paying for their longevity.

I also found it interesting that you almost never saw the beneficiaries of the Donor's sacrifice. They lived in an alternate universe where the organs they needed just appeared the messiness and horror of the process was hidden from them. One very brief but telling scene is when the children were all in a restaurant laughing loudly, and an older couple at a nearby table looks at them with disgust and annoyance. These are the very same people who will likely live a long life thanks to the ultimate sacrifice of the "annoying" young people.

I also found the issue of the "Deferrals" to be full of philosophical significance. In essence I think Ishiguro is making a comment about death, and how we all bargain for more time with the ones we love. Interestingly, in the film the deferrals turn out to be nothing but a false rumor, a children's fairytale. I think perhaps the author is making a comment on belief in the afterlife... we all want to believe that death is not the end, that we will see our loved ones in the afterlife. After all, if our love is true enough, justice MUST dictate that we get more time with them. Is there any basis in truth to this belief? Or, are we like the kids at Hailsham desperately believing a made-up story?

Of course, the film makes it clear from the very 1st scene that deferrals are false we see Tommy clearly about to reach "completion" even as the opening credits roll, so we know there will be no happy ending for he and Kathy. So the viewer is not surprised by the revelation late in the film that there are no deferrals. What is touching, however, is the childlike hope with which Tommy and Kathy cling to this dream of more time together. One of the most moving parts of the film is when we realize that Kathy, always the more grounded one, has just realized there are no deferrals even as Tommy still clings to his hope. Carey Mulligan does wonders with the smallest of expressions in this scene.

Also on the subject of the afterlife, in the final scene when Kathy looks across the field, she imagines seeing Tommy running across to her. This is clearly a reference to the standard Hollywood version of two lovers reuniting in the afterlife. We've seen this type of "happy ending" so often in movies, that we almost expect to see him come running over the horizon. But tellingly, he never does and Kathy never even allows the fantasy to progress to the point where they actually embrace. The thought of something that she knows will never happen is too painful. There is no more time. There is no deferral. All she will ever have is the brief time they had together.

So in the end I think this is a movie about life specifically, the blink-of-an-eye flash of time we all get on this earth. Anyone who has been truly in love will know that no amount of years will ever be enough. We all want a deferral, and would give almost anything for one. In fact, the people in this fictional society in effect bargain their humanity away in exchange for their own deferrals they allow innocent young people to suffer and die in exchange for their own "deferrals". But in the end, deferral or not, "completion" comes for us all, and too soon. All we can do is appreciate every moment, and respect all of our fellow humans, and never let each other go.

Want Never Let Me Go (2010) Discount?

I'm really gravitating to the less mainstream and not super popular movies and books these days. I had never heard of this as far as it being in theaters. I loved it. It haunted me for days after watching it. The weird thing was that I wondered for an hour or so after watching it if it was maybe a true story, if something like this could have really happened. Of course it couldn't, except way long ago and in secret. I got so caught up in the characters and the tiny details, like the people making deliveries to the schools and halfway houses making such an effort not to get to know or care for the kids, to protect themselves from the horror and saddness of the whole thing. This is a movie that has alot of saddness but I enjoyed watching it so much and it really made me think. I think there might be people out there who have philosophies that this kind of thing would be okay. So I think movies like this are terrific to keep us thinking and watching what we do to each other as human beings. I was so glad to see Carey Mulligan in something more than just a supporting role. I think she's very talented.

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