“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them and not let unseen tides pull us apart.”‘
I know Letterboxd is a place usually for objective film criticism, but sometimes thoughts on a film are best articulated with a personal background.
I would say that I worry about things a lot, possibly too much. Everything from whether I’ll meet a self-imposed deadline on an assignment, to how someone might have interpreted something I said. But something that concerns me the most is the inevitable end everyone arrives at – death. Feeling like I haven’t lived every moment to the fullest, achieved everything I want to, show everyone how much I love them, losing someone in an instant. Regret. It’s something I most often think about after an event, but can’t remember to in the moment so I don’t feel this way.
In Never Let Me Go, Kathy feels this fear, quite a common one, except hers is magnified by a death that’s foreseeable but also uncertain. How she is going to die is known to her, but when and how long it will take is unknown. Will it be fast and painless, or a slow, agonising degeneration? This ‘use by date’ of sorts on her life results in frantic attempts at normality, to create as many memories and connections to things through collections, to create a life that resembles what she perceives to be like what everyone else lives. This ‘bubble’ of sorts exists where she, Ruth, and Tommy grew up, but once they leave, it’s obvious that these attempts at being ‘normal’ have been in vain, that no matter how many role plays they do at school, they are not prepared for reality.
Employing an approach that is similar to that utilised in Her,Never Let Me Go takes a world that is all too familiar and believable to the viewer and tweaks elements of it, making the universe foreign, but at the same time, achingly close to home, provoking deep thought and emotion. Similar to the aforementioned film, it is complex ethically and morally, raising many questions on a variety of issues, from nature vs. nurture to the advancements of medical science. Despite this, it doesn’t get lumbered down in lofty and unachievable ambitions, instead it strips down as much as possible to tell a tender narrative about life, death, and duty. It stays away from cliche, from becoming another science fiction film by staying at the heart of the narrative and the audience, realising that it requires no sudden and out of character tonal change in the third act, rather that its secret is better left unsaid, not imposing itself. This is due to the exquisite writing, both in the novel and the script, Mark Romanek’s delicate direction and the intelligent use of colour (I love how there suddenly was some greens and pinks when there was a semblance of hope in contrast to the rest of the film, which is all browns and whites), leaving a quiet tone that creates tension through this incredible tranquility.
This is echoed in Carey Mulligan’s excellent performance, who just exudes grace and warmth, so quiet she almost blends into the muted scenery, but so powerful and compelling to watch, drawing one into what seems to be a simple film on the surface. The supporting cast are also uniformly excellent (whatever happened to Andrew Garfield?), and all have a wonderful chemistry.
The best science fiction is able to move the audience, creating a believable world not too far from our own, giving an emotional connection to hold onto and provoke thought in a new way.Never Let Me Go creates a film of such a soft, airy lyricism, so quietly emotional, not concerning itself with melodrama or ‘big’ scenes, but instead the small moments of a wholly quiet life that has been lived with such caution, fear of losing a connection, and an ending that isn’t too far away from the present. Trying not to regret.
Never Let Me Go received a limited release in March 2011.
M (mature themes and sex scenes), 104 mins.