Posts Tagged ‘Kiera Knightly’

Film Reviews!: Never Let Me Go

October 28, 2010

The next time that you find yourself in the middle of a movie, knowing EXACTLY what’s going to happen next and the exact beats that the screenwriter is cultivating to get you there, just take solace in the fact that every so often we are given a movie like Never Let Me Go.  I went into this screening knowing nothing at all about the movie beforehand.  I had abstained from trailers, internet gossip, the whole nine yards.  I knew that the movie was primarily produced in the UK and nothing in this movie relishes in that of standard conventions.

Mark Romanek is given the helm as director and this work marks his third foray into full-length feature films.  The hallmark of Romanek’s work is that it always manages to invoke a sort of gritty, heartless, almost cruel realism that few directors have the capacity to engineer in their productions.  One hour Photo, shot in 2002 and starring Robin Williams, is a perfect example of Romanek’s style and how he manages to make the film’s aesthetics as central to the story as the script itself.  Known primarily for his expansive music video catalog, however, further examples of Romanek’s creative touch as it transcends mood and tone are best referenced in Weezer’s El Scorcho,  Fiona Apple’s Criminal, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt.  His incredible eye for detail and attention to not only the undertones of the story, but the overtones and all the tones in the middle, are what guides the images he captures to broadcast such a heightened sense of understanding.  Romanek truly knows how to tell a story through images and an overall aesthetic, which is exactly how Never Let Me Go manages to accomplish so much with so little in terms of production or back story.

One of the greatest accomplishments of this film (and there are many) is it’s ability to instill an overall sense of dread and hopelessness in the audience. And while many movies have the capacity to instill an audience with the equivalent mood to collaborate with the tone of their film, few flicks do so in such a masterful way as Never Let Me Go.  For it’s not the story that creates such an ethereal sense of abandon in the audience (though the story IS quite bleak), nor the dialogue or the superb writing.  The unending tone of dismay that Never Let Me Go so successfully conveys is explicitly broadcast through the heartlessness and futility found in the day-to-day lives of the movies characters, and of the film’s alternate world’s atmosphere that it has completely fabricated.  Fair warning, a bit of background into the film’s plot and some spoilers will be required to further flesh out my analysis.

Never Let Me Go follows the lives of three clones in an alternate version of Britain in which, as early as the mid-sixties, clones were regularly grown and harvested for their organs.  The story follows this love triangle of clones as they are brought up in an orphanage through their adolescence and  into their adulthood as they begin to be harvested for their organs (clones are kept alive for as many as up to three ‘donations’ on average).  The story isn’t about rebellion.  It’s not even about passive resistance, or really any kind of resistance at all.  The characters make a single attempt at preventing their own demise only to be told calmly, cooly, and in a warm, open environment that there is no such thing as a delay or an extension on life.  Once your number is called, it’s called.  So, while the characters do eventually have a mental break down, they never actually attempt to escape the fate that is bestowed upon them.  This, amongst multiple other tonal impressions, is how the inescapable sense of despairing fate envelopes the entire film and manages to drape itself over the audience, by proxy.

And this overbearing sense of dismal loss and submission does so much more than simply play into the movie’s central theme.  It helps to elaborate on the symbolism and specific messages that the film looks to project in its alternative universe.  For example, despite the fact that the characters in Romanek’s most recent endeavor have roughly half the life-span of most people, they still experience the exact same trials and tribulations, still wrestle with the same concepts of life’s futility, of love lost and unrequited, and dealing with reality as you are confined to it.  The characters in Never Let Me Go blindly accept the life they have been born into with little to no grievances, much as most do.  The story, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, works as a beautiful metaphor for the short lease we all have on life, and the way most of us waste our lives striving for mundane things or blindly accepting our fate.  Had the main characters in the story ever ventured out farther than an occasional trek into town or if they had even questioned things more than once, perhaps they could have escaped the early deaths that awaited them.

Finally, it needs to be noted that the acting and directing in Never Let Me Go help to translate the story beautifully, as well, with Kiera Knightly playing one of the most unlikeable-yet-understandable, conniving characters in recent memory.  Her portrayal of the back-stabbing Ruth rings so true as one of her sole motivations in life is to keep from being lonely.  Andrew Garfield continually reminds me why I am excited for the Spider-Man reboot, with his calm and impassioned portrayal of Tommy.  And Carey Mulligan easily gives the strongest performance of the film as the demure and complacent Kathy.  It’s certainly worth noting, as well, that the child actors in this film put on excellent performances, in addition to the star-power inherent in Mulligan, Garfield, and Knightly.

Never Let Me Go’s expert discussion of some of the most existential, overarching concepts in humanity makes it a textual masterpiece that comes alive through Romanek’s exquisite ability to create an entire universe through tone and atmosphere.  Without wasting a minute of screen time and without adding any superfluous content, which, in effect, usually ends up taking away from the original story, Romanek  and screenwriter Alex Garland paint a beautiful, haunting, and discouraging portrait of how often life is wasted on complacency and fear.

Performances: 92/100

Cinematography/Aesthetics: 85/100

Score: 67/100

Script: 88/100

Final: 81/100