So before we begin the review proper, a couple of words about why it’s been like a month since I last posted here:

Basically, December has been a stressful and nutty month. I also hit something of a writing block while working on a novel (I know, I know!) and haven’t really quite worked my way out of it. Unfortunately for you, esteemed reader, that means you get a swath of movie reviews instead of new creative writing or editorializing about varied and interesting subjects. You know, the stuff that this blog is also supposed to be about.

Anyway, on to Never Let Me Go.

So here we have the rare movie that manages to be really good and yet piss me off horribly. If you don’t know already, Never Let Me Go is a beautiful, haunting film about clones who are harvested for their organs in an alternate reality where such a thing has cured pretty well all illness, rendering the moral and metaphysical implications moot to society at large.

They just take this shit at face value. The idea that this is reprehensible is given some weight but mostly it is dismissed by everyone and the subjects, our noble protagonists, bear it all with little complaint. It’s definitely a different approach than the usual fictional account of oppressive, monstrous reality fought by intrepid heroes trying to initiate massive change. Instead, it’s a slice of life for three particular people, sort of a cluing in on a possible world.

In three segments chronicling specific periods of their lives, we learn about three young people who are born into this mess and how it affects them. This is not to mean that it’s all about oppression and whatever, because that stuff only edges in. Really, it’s about how life goes for these three and how it affects their relationships to each other. I was so angry that no one fought back when I first saw the film that I almost didn’t care that this was something new.

Well, I shouldn’t say new. This is the kind of film Andrew Niccol makes (Gattaca) in some ways, but where he’s all about triumph of the individual human will in the face of a cold and inherently oppressive society, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel deals with more personal and internally emotional issues. I bet there was a notion somewhere out there to take the basic idea and reframe it with something more standard, some kind of rebellion or fighting back, but I’m glad (in retrospect) that we got something more potentially honest and at least faithful to what I assume was the thematic spirit of the adapted material.

Beyond the subject matter and how you might feel about it, the ups in the film have a lot to do with the immaculate casting. The primary here is Carey Mulligan who narrates and basically carries the film. I haven’t seen An Education or The Greatest yet, but she was good in Wall Street 2 and seeing her here confirms all the buzz she’s been getting the last couple of years. Andrew Garfield deserves all the attention and career momentum and as we know from my discussion about his casting in Marc Webb’s Spider-man reboot, I’m already a fan. He does quiet and sensitive really well and that’s how I first saw him in Boy A. His take on Tommy reminded me very much of the character from that film and is almost unrecognizable compared to his Eduardo Severin from The Social Network. I like Keira Knightley and she is almost always good. Some people say she is bland but I don’t think that’s true, though I prefer her unrestrained. That said, she has the most “star power” of the three leads and it was good to see her doing the strong supporting role thing. Her big confession hospital scene was a major highlight of the film and I can’t think of a similar moment for Carey Mulligan though Garfield gets several throughout, especially the scenes with his art.

There’s simply a lot of quiet, confident acting in this film. The cinematography completely matches up to that, the overall texture is one of subtle self-assurance. Except of course for an awkwardly heavy-handed remark in the coda voiceover. Yeesh.

Aside from the craft and acting of the thing, the score is probably what is going to be most memorable for musically inclined audiences. The score knocks it out and in a year of great film scores (Tron: Legacy, Inception, etc) it holds its own and then some.

It’s going to be a hard flick to track down, it only played the “indie” theater for a week or so, but see it if you can. It might piss you off a bit if you go in expecting a story of rebellion against doom or whatever, but this is a film that is not afraid of the reality of death and in fact, assigns a heroism and grace to the characters that is rarely seen in other films in such an ungarnished way.

If nothing else, you ought to be interested in young actors as talented and skillful as these.