Thursday, February 3, 2011

Under 250: Never Let Me Go

If Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go was created as an existential study on the futility of human life, intended only to remind the viewer of their personal mortality, then it is a success. But as a film, it has little to offer other than its stark beauty, lacking any human connection underneath its sterile and grim exterior. The film is a rumination on the short lives of friends Ruth (Keira Knightley), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Kathy (Carey Mulligan), all born and raised to become “donors” of vital organs for those of us living normal lives, all three inevitably losing their lives once they’ve run out of organs to donate. Not having read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, I’m not sure if the film follows the story and tone exactly, but here there is no struggle. There is no rebellion or questioning of the horror and obligation that the government has put on the donors outside of a rare frustrated scream or tearful eye. Instead the donors live out their lives like depressed sheep that accept their lot in a stupor of gentle ease. It’s not necessary to turn to melodramatic tricks to keep the audience invested. But stripped of this attribute the film lacks conflict and momentum, especially under the direction of Romanek who famously keeps his subjects and films at a distant arm’s length. The film could have been a fascinating study of how the helpless react when facing certain death, but Romanek does little to build true connections between the characters, nor does he build up any believable world to get lost in.  For as much as we are supposed to be seeing the humanity in the donors before us, the absence of the human will leaves them as empty and devoid of emotional connection as they were to their oppressors.


  1. The book had the same frustrating acceptance, but it takes a while for the reader to understand why these children are different. Ishiguro keeps his cards close to his chest so it makes the story work IMO. The movie gave away everything even from the preview.

  2. @alana...very good to know. I've always wanted to read the book, but wasn't so sure after the movie. Glad to know it's still worth it.


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