Monday, 18 October 2010

Review: Never let me go

Year: 2010
Director: Mark Romanek
Screenplay: Alex Garland
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley

Synopsis is here

Never let me go has the issue that I feel most avid book reader fear. Despite being proficient from a technical viewpoint (with a lovely use of muted colours), and having a strong cast that really holds it's own with the delicate material, Never let me go is missing something. I haven't read the book but it feels obvious to me that some of the nuances that Kazuo Ishiguro are missed somewhat. Maybe the films reveal is a bit too quick. perhaps the performances just don't tug on the heartstrings, or the grand themes are all a tad too subtle on screen, I'm not sure.

Still, there is a lot to enjoy in this taut and restrained piece. Like other good sci-fi, Never let me go is as much about the human condition as well as the tropes of the genre. As we gradually learn more about these characters way of life, we're not only slightly unnerved but we begin to feel for these people. Their character is drained from early in life and as the emotions inside them began to stir, so did my hope for them. There's moments within the film that are quietly heartbreaking. In many love stories, we cheer because the characters rebel against the social norms placed upon them. Their fight for love is what we go for.  In Never let me go, we lament because the fight has been taken out before these young people can even acknowledge what they're feeling. This gives the film such a fresh and unique feel from so many dramas.

And yet still something in Garland's adaptation stops me from truly falling for this movie. After a quick read of the novels synopsis I realise that there's been small changes to the narrative that dull an already muted plot, and lessen the impact one of the films more powerful scenes. The films restraint; while welcoming also causes slight problems in finding warmth within the films characters. There are moments that truly call out for it, but the mood is so subdued it may only be those who are really connected to Ishiguro's prose who can get the most out of it. 

There are three solid performances to enjoy however, with Mulligan, Knightly and Garfield all getting into the right brain space for the immature and naive players. Garfield especially rounds off a great year with a performance that almost taps into that emotion that bubbles under the surface. Kudos must also go out to the child casting as the kids not only look like their older counterparts, but give solid, watchable performances.

I've said before that is the film gets me interested enough in the book then it's done it's job. Never Let Me Go does enough to warrant my interest into heading to Waterstones and purchasing a copy of the novel. The problem however, will be that the books prose will be be rich enough for me to really get into the piece.