Awe inspiring filmmaking
Sci-fi, but subtly so throughout, this Alex Garland penned adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel of the same name comes across much like Michael Bay’s The Island being given a couple of hours to rummage around the BBC period drama costume department. It’s also an insufferably sad film, and is perhaps the first time in the entirety of Keira Knightley’s brief but prominent career she has ever succeeded in eliciting anything from me other than all consuming rage. Like fellow leads Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan, Knightly is brilliant throughout.
The film locates its story within a 1970’s British boarding school, set in an alternative plane to our reality but featuring many of the same mundane touches. It’s a strange place though; cold even for a British boarding school, even for the 1970’s. There’s little laughter, a smattering of love via the fumbly triangular romance binding the leads together. But it’s an unkind, forebodingly ornate place. Sort of like a museum where you get shouted at for talking. There’s also something lurking behind the face of Charlotte Rampling’s teacher that’s inaccessible to the three teens, and to the viewer. It’s a secret that takes some time to reveal itself, painstakingly so in fact. When it does come it’s monstrous.
It would be unkind of me to spoil the secret, and the consequences that then unfold, culminating in the symphony of sadness that greets the end credits. But I will talk a little about the details, the things it made me feel. See, despite Never Let Me Go having a story that inverts humanity as fully as I remember a mainstream movie doing so in recent years, it isn’t a film without beauty. It’s beauty as easy to miss as pin pricks on a sheet of paper, yes, but set against such a stark backdrop, they’re recognisable if you’re looking. Sometimes the sadness will force you to look for them, merely to give the film purpose. However you find them, the result is the same; euphoria.
Without these moments Never Let Me Go would be a masterclass in cinematic gloom. With them the film is a revelation, as well as one of the most moving experiences you’ll have in a cinema all year.