British author Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his dystopian sci-fi novel Never Let Me Go today, so here’s the gorgeous movie adaptation which coincidentally just came to Netflix this week.
Friends Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) grow up together at a seemingly idyllic boarding school in the English countryside. When they leave the school and the horrible truth of their true purpose is revealed to them, they must simultaneously confront deep-seated feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to tear their friendship asunder.
I love sci-fi stories that are subtle and not so obviously a part of the genre. This could easily be just another British period piece if it weren’t for the horrifying ethical situation at the heart of the story. Sadly, I still haven’t read the source novel so I can’t say how faithful an adaptation it is. But the great Alex Garland’s screenplay is certainly beautiful and melancholic.
It’s a gorgeous film to look at. Director Mark Romanek is primarily a music video director with the exception of One Hour Photo, and the film shares some of that format’s aesthetics. He brought on Oscar-winning composer Rachel Portman who crafted a subdued and brooding orchestral score that suits the story well. His best choices were his leads though.
All three are Oscar nominees and the among the best of their generation. Mulligan is probably the strongest, but Knightley was truly powerful and even moreso to me after learning that she was hesitant because she couldn’t identify with the character and only took the part because her friend Mulligan insisted. The three are supported by several powerhouse actors like Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Domnhall Gleeson, and Nathalie Richard. The surprise discovery of this was Ella Purnell who plays the younger version of Knightley. All of the child versions of the characters were good, but she really stood out and will be someone to watch for in future projects despite still doing mostly supporting roles for now.
It’s a darker film to be sure but not without moments of levity. There’s a very amusing segment at a diner when they go to seek out the person that Knightley is modeled on. Mostly though, it’s a quiet meditation on what it means to be human.