Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guest Post Movie Review : Never Let Me Go

Posted by Simcha 7:17 PM, under | 4 comments

Today I have for you a guest post from Nadine Bonner, who attended a premier showing of Never Let Me Go and graciously wrote up a review of it for SFF Chat readers. Just be aware that this review does contain spoilers of both the movie and the book and if you have not yet read the book then you might want to hold off on reading this review.


Never Let Me Go
Reviewed by Nadine Bonner



Is it fair to compare a movie to a book? A young friend once insisted that these were two separate mediums and need to be evaluated on their own merits. With the exception of Gone with the Wind, I find that I am not able to separate the two and am usually disappointed in favor of the book version.

Still, last night I went to see Never Let Me Go, based on the elegantly written novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. While I was swept away by beauty of the English countryside and Carey Mulligan’s compelling performance as Kathy H, I became aware that many of my fellow moviegoers had no clue what was happening on screen.

I saw the film at a premier for members of the Philadelphia Film Society, so after the movie, these ardent film-lovers lingered to discuss the film. And my feelings were confirmed. I spent about half an hour filling in the details from the book so they could digest what they had just seen.

Ishiguro’s story is a flash-backed narrated by Kathy H, beginning with her idyllic childhood at a pastoral English boarding school called Hailsham. The students at Hailsham are constantly reminded that they are special. In the book, we gradually realize that this is because they are clones – created by the wealthy and “stored” until they are needed by their patrons as organ donors. Their only purpose in life is to give up their organs – they don’t get jobs, they don’t have children of their own.

In the movie, the scenes of the actual organ donations are quite graphic, but the fact that these cloned children were created for this horrifying purpose is never spelled out. Leaving the audience confused.

In the childhood scenes, Kathy H. grows up with two close friends, Tommy and Ruth. In the tradition
of the classic triangle, Kathy is in love with Tommy, but as they enter adolescence, Ruth steals him away. After “graduating” from Hailsham, the trio enter a sort of halfway house called “The Cottages” where Tommy and Ruth have constant sex, and poor Kathy is forced to listen to their cries and moans.

Kathy leaves to become a “carer” – as the title implies, she takes care of the clones as they recover after making their “donations.” Some give up one organ after another; others “complete” – the euphemism for dying – after one or two donations.

Ten years after separating, Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are reunited. Ruth has already “donated” twice and is on the verge of “completing.” She apologizes for stealing Tommy to Kathy, who begins the romantic affair with the boy she has always loved. They try to apply for a “deferral” – a sort of urban legend that is rumored to apply to couples truly in love. After their disillusionment, Kathy cares for Tommy until his final donation, and then she herself is scheduled to begin her donations.

The movie seems cold and pointless because so much of both the character development and the plotline of science gone amok that imbued the book is left out.

Kera Knightly as Ruth is pretty and vapid. While they are in the cottages, she flaunts her relationship with Tommy, but it lacks context because we do not see the intense love-hate relationship of their childhood. It looks more like best friends who fight over a boy, but in the book version, their relationship was much more complex. Ruth is a mean child who bullies Kathy and Tommy. She is very dislikable, so her redemption at the end is more meaningful.

Even the title, which comes from song on a cassette the Tommy buys for Kathy, is not placed in context. So neither the playing of the song nor the title ever makes sense.

Because so much is left up in the air, Never Let Me Go is ultimately more gruesome than
truly horrifying.

4 comments:

I am not going to read this review because I haven't seen the movie, not showing where I am yet. Just read the book, which left me devastated!!! I'll come back once I've seen the movie and will compare notes.

Nice review.
Not so sure how I feel about watching this one, perhaps

Stephanie: I haven't yet read the book and rather wish that I hadn't read this review yet either since it gives away some of the ending from the book. Oh well. I do still hope to read it though.

Blodeuedd: I'm going to read the book and then decide if I feel like watching the movie. I actually had been looking forward to seeing it but this review rather dampened my enthusiasm for it.

I actially found the movie to be VERY worthwhile. Carey Mulligan - as the lead - is amazing.

It's haunting, but extremely well crafted and shot.

Would definitely recommend it, whether you have read the book or not.

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