One of the more overlooked movies of 2010, Never Let Me Go stars Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Kiera Knightley and Golden Globe nominee Andrew Garfield as three friends bonded by their unique boarding school experience - and disturbing purpose in life.
Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, which explores three phases of the friends' lives, Never Let Me Go begins in a special boarding school where students never leave the property and teachers are referred to as "guardians". It soon becomes apparent that the students are being raised for a singular, ethically questionable purpose.
Never Let Me Go has a science fiction angle to it, but it is first and foremost a romantic drama focused on the love triangle between the three leads. The actors elevate the already strong material, delivering emotionally powerful performances in what can only be described as an intentionally understated picture. It's great to see three rising stars working together on such strong material.
It's hard to isolate a single performance above the others, but a revelatory scene toward the end of the movie with Mulligan and Garfield is simply brilliant. To see their reactions, and their differing acceptance of what's to come, is one of the most emotional scenes in a movie in recent memory.
The movie itself is incredibly engaging and yet consistently somber throughout. The fate of the characters is established early on, their purpose in life to die at a young age for a greater good. It's never clear how much the characters themselves understand this, which makes the story all the more intrguing. They seem to have accepted their fate, and yet thrive to be together, to love and enjoy life.
On a literal note, I did struggle with the world established in Never Let Me Go. The writing is on the wall for the three characters, and yet they are able to grow, form friendships and relationships and interact with the real world. Their very existence is never explained, at least not to a satisfying degree. I understand their purpose, but not the logic of why they were released into the real world. And why do they just blindly accept their fate when they have free will to go where they want? What prevents them from trying to escape?
Never Let Me Go is a touching, somber tale of love, friendship and mortality. At times mesmerizing, other times heartbreaking, the movie is one of the better films of 2010. Given the talent involved, it's a shame Never Let Me Go wasn't more widely distributed and marketed. It definitely deserves more attention than it received.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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