Never Let Me Go carries almost zero emotional impact
Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley. Rated PG. Opens Friday, September 24, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Never Let Me Go starts in 1978, and viewers can be forgiven for thinking it looks more like 1958. As backwards as the British countryside may appear near the grounds of Hailsham House, things are playing out a bit differently than memory tells us they did.
Watch the trailer for Never Let Me Go.
Of course, this is no ordinary boarding school. The fact that it’s run by Charlotte Rampling should be a tip-off to deeper trouble for its young charges, but placid Kathy, willful Ruth, and volatile, artistic Tommy are caught up in their quiet concerns—mainly involving each other. Thanks to a teacher (Sally Hawkins) who is shocked to discover what the place is all about, the children learn that they are part of some complicated experiment, although its exact nature is still shrouded in rumours and euphemisms.
The film jumps to the mid-’80s, and hair and fashion again look a little off, and now our central triangle is played by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. Their lack of experience with the outside world comes out in the film’s most engrossing segment, with the trio encountering both outsiders and people who were raised roughly like themselves.
The search for some kind of meaning, and for fleeting happiness, in the face of a terrible fate drives these characters, as it did in the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also wrote the definitive stifled-Brit novel, The Remains of the Day. But American music-video director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later) are too respectful of the original text’s contemplative rhythms and not interested enough in the tempestuousness locked inside its trapped souls. The result is mildly engaging on an intellectual level but carries almost zero emotional impact.