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Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

September 24, 2010

Never Let Me Go – A Fox Searchlight Release

Release Date: September 24th

Rated 14A for sexual content and disturbing content

Running time: 103 minutes

Mark Romanek (dir.)

Alex Garland (screenplay)

Based on the novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishaguro

Rachel Portman (music)

Carey Mulligan as Kathy

Andrew Garfield as Tommy

Keira Knightley as Ruth

Izzy Meikle-Small as Young Kathy

Charlie Rowe as Young Tommy

Ella Purnell as Young Ruth

©Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go

Our reviews below:


Never Let Me Go Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Kazuo Ishaguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go is one of the finest works of modern fiction I have read and Mark Romanek’s big screen adaptation is one of the best movies of the year.  Like its literary counterpart, the story unravels slowly, with us never knowing more about its situation than the central characters.  I am being cautious not to spoil any of the plot points which I think are best left unknown.

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy (played as adults by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, respectively) lived until they were 18 at Hailsham – a sheltered boarding school in the English countryside for children who are ‘special.’  At Hailsham they are both ‘told and not told’ about their reason for existence.  When they reach adulthood they are moved to ‘The Cottages,’ and must fully accept the roles they are expected to play in society.

The performances are all equally excellent, but particular standouts are leads Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.  Mulligan’s understated beauty and luminescent quality are perfect for Kathy and Garfield is simply brilliant as Tommy.  All of the performances are centred around an emotional core and the entire cast – including the immensely talented child actors – have nailed it right down to the quiet eyes and shed tears.

I suppose this could be classed as a work of science fiction, but these themes are masterfully never brought forth as the main plot.  This is a heartbreaking and brilliant film that serves as a beautiful metaphor for the fact that we can never be fully prepared for the lives we are going to lead.  It eludes to a deeper, dystopic theme, but all the way through it is about the lives we live, rather than the circumstances of our existence.  At its heart, this is a human story about love and life, where it’s impossible not to see things from your own experiences projected through these characters.

The cinematography is striking and Rachel Portman’s score will wash over you, subconsciously at first, but by the final few scenes becoming a character in itself.  In the end, Never Let Me Go will break your heart, but it does so in a pondering, beautiful way that makes this story a must both on the page and screen.


Never Let Me Go Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Never Let Me Go is a low-key drama that by beautifully underplaying it’s central ideas, becomes an emotional story about life.

I won’t go too far into the plot here, because – much like Kazuo Ishaguro ’s book – you really shouldn’t go into it knowing more than the characters.  This allows you to become invested and follow along with them.  Basically though, the story follows three young adults, Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan), Tommy D. (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley).  Kathy narrates the story, which is told both in present day and with flashbacks of their boarding school years together at Hailsham.  The quiet storytelling methods here are very well utilized, keeping you hooked until the final scene.

I really liked Never Let Me Go, and would love to see it up for some awards later in the year.  The acting is stellar both by the three adult leads, as well as the young actors playing them as kids.  The screenplay is very well written and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes up for awards – although it faces steep competition for the Adapted category.  The film is also shot beautifully and has a fitting score by Rachel Portman.

To sum it up, do I think this is an awards contender?  Yes, I think it at least deserves to be.  Whether or not audiences go for it remains to be seen, but even if it doesn’t garner a coveted Best Picture nom, I think we could easily see one or two of the actors (e.g., Mulligan, Garfield) in contention, as well as the aforementioned script.

The reason this is a such touching and heartbreaking film, that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre, is the fact that you relate to the characters.  Their feelings are universal, about accepting things you can’t control and trying to just live the best life you can.  And in the end, you realize this is what the whole film is about.  In the grand scheme of things, we are all human.


Never Let Me Go Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Never Let Me Go is a chilling and disturbing sci-fi story about three boarding school students with a “special” life purpose.  Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, this film tells the story of three students, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy.  They attend a boarding school called Hailsham, where they are raised for a “special” reason.  Only over time, as they grow up, do they realize what this reason is.  Even then, they have been cut off from the real world for so long, they don’t even consider the possibility of escaping their horrific fate.  I won’t tell you what it is, but it hits like a ton of bricks, leading to one really disturbing scene that may bother some sensitive viewers.

Never Let Me Go is not only a dystopic sci-fi tale, but a tragic romantic drama as well.  The story is amazing and the three leads (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knighley and Andrew Garfield) brilliantly underplay the story.  The quiet, somewhat wistful score by Rachel Portman is also beautiful, as is the scenery of the English countryside.  Go see this movie.  It will affect you.


Never Let Me Go Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Never Let Me Go is a beautiful film adaptation of the hauntingly touching sci-fi coming of age novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The story is set in England, beginning at the Hailsham school where all children are special.

It’s through the narrative voice of Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan), a former student, that we learn what it was like to grow up in Hailsham.  Kathy H., along with her closest friends, Ruth (Kiera Knightley) and Tommy D. (Andrew Garfield) grow up together and learn how to live and love in a world where your destiny is predetermined for you.  The truth is only hinted at by the school’s director, Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling).  Only one teacher, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) attempts to explain things to the students.  Her attempt gets her fired.

When the children turn 18 they are moved to “The Cottages” special residences where they prepare for their eventual vocations as donors and carers.  Kathy H. is one of the special carers.  The story is incredibly moving as Kathy H., Ruth and Tommy transition into adulthood.  Like any other young adult their thoughts are of love and dreams for the future.  The eventual outcomes are heartbreaking.

What makes this brilliant story translate so well on film is the incredible acting all around especially by Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.  The cinematography is beautiful and the score by Rachel Portman matches the mood perfectly.

This is a thought-provoking film that is equally beautiful and difficult to watch.  Though a little slow-moving at times, the touching performances are worth waiting for.


Never Let Me Go Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

Never Let Me Go is a brilliant adaptation of the novel by Japanese-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro. It is difficult to describe without spoiling the plot, largely seen in flashbacks of the main character Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan) of her upbringing in Hailsham, a country boarding school, followed by residence in The Cottages in preparation for life in her case as a Carer and ultimately a Doner leading to final Completion. These terms are euphemisms for the fate that awaits these special people in a dystopic world spanning a timeline from 1978 to 1994. Ruth (Keira Knightly) is a rival of Kathy H. for the affection of Tommy (Andrew Garfield). In a very understated way faithful to the book, the script moves quietly but inexorably through this increasingly disturbing world.

Performances by the leads and their child counterparts (Izzy Meikle Small, Ella Purnelle and Charlie Rowe respectively) are all excellent, with a fine supporting cast including Charlotte Rampling as the headmistress and Sally Hawkins as a teacher. Everything is beautifully framed and shot, with an atmospheric score by Rachel Portman for strings, harp and piano.


Consensus: With impeccable production values and uniformly excellent performances, Never Let Me Go is a beautiful, touching and heartbreaking adaptation of Kazuo Ishaguro’s brilliant novel. **** (Out of 4)

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