It’s an adap of a novel by one of Britain’s best authors (Kazuo Ishiguro), stars some of our hottest young talent and deals with themes of no less importance than the human soul.
In other words, Never Let Me Go is a present laid expectantly on Bafta’s doorstep. Let’s hope they kept the receipt.
You might expect a sci-fi centred on medical ethics to take place in some future dystopia. But Mark Romanek’s (One Hour Photo) film is set in the drizzle of mid-’90s England, dividing its time between overcast seaside, muddy countryside and a peculiar boarding school called Hailsham.
There, pupils Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) become rivals when Ruth poaches the affections of Tommy (Andrew Garfield). As the three grow into adulthood, they learn that a truly in-love couple might defer the grim fate of Hailsham pupils, and competition for Tommy’s heart intensifies.
In another Ishiguro adaptation, The Remains Of The Day, Anthony Hopkins revealed the pathos of a man unable to take action to find happiness in his life. Despite boasting three times the inert characters of that film, Never Let Me Go never achieves equivalent impact. The pupils’ failure to question their fate plays more like lethargy than tragically repressed emotion.
Scripter Alex Garland does deserve credit for his restraint; a lesser adap would have ignored the novel’s nuance and put Knightley and Mulligan in silver Lycra. Then again, a better one would’ve found a way to transfer the book’s intense feeling to the screen.
Instead, Never Let Me Go is moving only in the sense that it’s depressing and, y’know, so are motorway service stations.
As beige as the cardies Carey Mulligan wears throughout, this has several quality elements, but there’s something vital missing.