Never Let Me Go (released in 2010) is one of the most heart-breaking movie experiences I’ve ever had, even though I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel by the same name and was more or less prepared. The movie balances on a line between hope and utter hopelessness, making certain scenes completely devastating. Directed by Mark Romanek and starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go is a melancholic and thoughtful dystopian story that provokes the viewer to contemplate humanity and ethics.
At the center of the movie are the lives of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, who spend their childhood at Hailsham boarding school. The movie begins as Kathy reflects on her childhood there, and what happened with the three of them. In Kathy’s world, human life expectancy is now past 100 years because of the breakthrough in science and the use of donated organs. Kathy’s, Tommy’s and Ruth’s seemingly idyllic childhood was only a preparation for the reality they now have to face as young adults. Despite the science fiction element, their intertwined lives are the real focus of the story, as Kathy, Tommy and Ruth have to come to terms with their destinies and their feelings for each other.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s book has a very distinctive haunting atmosphere, and when I went to see the movie I was a bit anxious about how well it was going to translate onto the screen. Yet, all my doubts soon disappeared, as the movie managed to capture the very special mood of the novel beautifully, with carefully chosen color scheme, music and camera work. The color palette is especially noteworthy, with the certain warmth of the picture that creates a bit of a retro look. Rachel Portman’s music is crucial for the atmosphere, and it almost becomes another character in the movie.
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley give really poignant performances as childhood friends that drift apart with time and then get a second chance. Carey Mulligan makes for a very likable narrator and Andrew Garfield has some truly powerful scenes which hit me pretty hard. Charlotte Rampling as Miss Emily, Sally Hawkins as Miss Lucy and Natalie Richard as Madame make up a strong supporting ensemble.
Never Let Me Go is not the easiest movie to watch. Nonetheless, there is a lot to think about, not to mention the great acting and beautiful soundtrack.