Never Let Me Go

Get Those Smiles out, You’re Going to Cry for Two Hours!


Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield

By Robert Patrick

The sterile, cold, unaffected world of “Never Let Me Go” is about as toneless as a hard boiled egg. A ubiquitous gray inundates the sidewalks, cafes and schools. Director Mark Romanek’s opus is about as tart as a tub of unflavored yogurt. When seen, weathered primary colors are burrowed into and defused by stony filtration. As in the story, everything is being siphoned of life. This is a triumphant visual accomplishment for the team behind the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s book of the same name. In any other movie, the lack of color would bother me – I don’t want to feel like I’m staring at my refridgerator door for two hours. But here, the omnipotence of vacuity is almost affectionate in its portrayal of a people who, because of their very peculiar existence, haven’t had much time to mix any paint on their very wooden palettes.

Essentially this deflated world, that has the ivory look of a boar’s skull, is pretty depressing (as if you wouldn’t have guessed). The movie is about children who are, due to their unnatural way of being cultivated, raised like cattle. They are clones, growing up to provide healthy organs to people in need. At a certain age our protagonists become eviscerated, providing, like their genetically recreated bodies were supposed to, hearts and lungs to sick humans. No one in society cares about these clones, as they think that they are soulless as a willow tree. This is how the pulpy drama gets underway, you see. And how thespians such as Keira Knightley get to look gaunt, perspire heavily, then show off their monolithic canines in an effort to get a potential Oscar nod.

And that’s pretty much what happens in “Never Let Me Go”. Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield fall in love, yell vehemently at each other, then let the tears violently spray like a pierced waterhose when things go badly – and believe me, they do. These three young people, instead of fleeing, decide to accept their fate, a theme that, because of the origins of its author’s lineage, is decidely Japanese. The intentions are duly noted, but having teenage characters, living in England, whether in an alternate dystopian reality or not, decide to stand idly by when faced with this adversity is hard to swallow. They are about to harvest your organs – run! It almost seems like a parable for farming animals. If I had not recognized the eastern influence, I would be faced with, what it boils down to be, a very long winded PETA public service announcement. The concept is more interesting than the actual execution, unfortunately, and it comes off as being heavy-handed and narcissitic.

Now that we have gutted the existential innerds of this movie, I’ll talk about, to the delight of my crass personality, the acting in this film. Carey Mulligan, as fine of an actress as she is, complies to the maudlin tactic of crying until her eyes are puffier than Sonny Liston after a fight with Muhammad Ali. Tears are spurting, indiscriminately, as if someone took a jacknife to a water balloon. Meanwhile, Andrew Garfield, who is pining over Knightley and Mulligan, pouts and erects the bottom of his lip until it looks like the bow of a schooner. And while I love both of these actors, this film, with all of its flaccid melodramatics, swallows them whole. Knightley, however, is having the best time with her overt vulnerability. The actress ploughs her fists into pillows, shows her piranha-like cage of teeth whenever she gets emotional, and gives the sort of exagerrated facial tics that John Cleese would even find outrageous. I should also mention, while not in the film for very long, that Sally Hawkins shows up looking like Amy Winehouse (wait, Amy Winehouse clone?!).

The best pat on the back this film will receive from me – and it is a curiously encouraging pat on the back – only exists because the casting department found child actors that bare a creepy resemblance to the film’s leads. I’m not sure if these are CGI replicas of Knightley and Mulligan, using FBI reverse aging software, but this is severely unsettling.

There is no real reason to watch “Never Let Me Go”, aside from seeing some monochrome scenery being infiltrated by Keira Knightley’s wirey profile. I would pass this up, read the book if interested in the story, and spend your wallet feathers on something else altogether in the theater.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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