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Monday, 7 November 2011

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Never Let Me Go

Directed by: Mark Romanek

Produced by: Mark Romanek
Alex Garland
Andrew Macdonald
Allon Reich

Screenplay by: Alex Garland

Based on: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Narrated by: Carey Mulligan

Starring: Carey Mulligan
Andrew Garfield
Keira Knightley

Music by: Rachel Portman

Cinematography by: Adam Kimmel

Editing by: Barney Pilling

Studio(s): DNA Films
Film4

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Release date(s): September 3, 2010 (Telluride Film Festival)
September 15, 2010 (United States; limited release)
February 11, 2011 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 103 minutes

Country(s): United Kingdom
United States

Language: English

Budget: $15 million

Box office revenue: $9, 455, 232


Hoy hoy hoy, this is the last post for a film that I reviewed in the month of October. As ever, it will be followed by a review of the month of October, which should give those of you who have missed some of the reviews a short distillation on what to watch and what not to. On another movie related topic, instead of going to see some of the crap movies I mention, watch some Charlie Chaplin. I have recently become very fond of his work due to bogging myself into piles of his movies for my Film Studies essay: it always helps to be fond of what you are studying, and Chaplin's Little Tramp is a highly endearing character that everyone will warm to.

So, todays (someone give me advice on the grammar there) film for assessment is Never Let Me Go. Adapted by Alex Garland, a novelist and screenwriter who I like very much, from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, it stars Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as three young people who grew up in a boarding school called Hailsham with their lives forever intertwined. That's as far as I am going: I won't spoil the plot as there as some interesting details to be sought from this film. It was directed by Mark Romanek, who is one of the foremost music-video directors, working with artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash, Jay-Z and Michael Jackson. However, it is for his superb 2002 thriller One Hour Photo, which stars Robin Williams in what I believe to be his finest performance. It is a stunning film that truly deserves a wider audience, and as such I was really looking forward to seeing this, Romanek's first feature in nine years after having dropped out from the 2010 Wolfman remake that went to be helmed by Joe Johnston.

The main thing that deserves praise about Never Let Me Go are the central three performances. Carey Mulligan carries the weight of this film on her shoulders in a terrific lead role, proving herself more than adept at playing this part. Being the centre of this film is a task which Mulligan pulls off with ease. She shows off all of the different sides of her character without being too flash or showy. This is a great display of subtlety, and you never once buy Kathy H. as anything but a real, 'in the flesh' human being: Mulligan has given us one of the year's finest examples of acting. Also good in the film are Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling and particularly Keira Knightley, all of whom deliver performances that are above the level of the material on the written page, more of which later. It is worth mentioning the score by Rachel Portman, for while this is of the style of film score that I normally despise (hence my Emotional Heartstring Orchestra term for this), I thought for this project it was appropriate and really added to the resonance of the film. Also, as a director, as seen from his music videos and One Hour Photo, Romanek is both a visual stylist and visual storyteller, knowing how to make something look good while telling the plot in a cinematic manner. He is a master of the visual medium, and it is clear from the approach cinematographer Adam Kimmel takes that this was his intent throughout production. As a film that is a bit of a concept piece, the restraint that Romanek shows is admirable. This could really have went off the rails, but Romanek grounds it with a certain sense of reality that takes away from the film's occasional sense of contrivance. Finally, although I am about to get stuck in, I like the way Alex Garland reveals some of the film's 'concept'/'plot points:' they are revealed in a way that is true to life, as opposed to an overly dramatic M. Night Shyamalan manner (at least his newer stuff): it is one of the film's stronger points, and enables the audience to buy this as something legitimate.

Now, as you can tell already, I did like the film, and frankly I really want to like the film more, but there are issues that are highly problematic with Never Let Me Go. The first and foremost problem comes from Alex Garland's script. Garland is a writer who's work I normally enjoy (and am looking forward to his Judge Dredd adaptation), but despite this not being a bad script, it's also not a good script. I was really troubled because despite having never read the book, never read the script and never seen the film, I could guess everything that was going to happen. The way he reveals the 'concept' is interesting and subtle, but it felt so contrived and outside of reality that I found it very hard to attach to these characters. Speaking of which, and I know these are supporting roles, the character's of Tommy D. (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) are presented in such a two-dimensional manner that the actor's struggle to present themselves legitimately as naturalistic. My final problem comes with the artistic decision regarding the narration. There is some beautiful dialogue, and I could listen to Carey Mulligan's voice all day, but if you are going to have narration, have it be consistent throughout. When you have whole sections of the film dominated by Mulligan's monologues, only for there to points where the gaps in narration last approximately half-an-hour, you feel like they are saying "this is the part that is integral to the story, because we don't require the narration to tell you how they feel." This lack of consistency highlights both the film's stronger and weaker points.

While having some serious issues with its script and some of the artistic decisions made while making the filming, most notably the lack of consistency in the narration, Never Let Me Go is a good film that is worth your time. It has a terrific performance from Carey Mulligan, with good backup from Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley and Charlotte Rampling. Also, there is a good score from Rachel Portman and you will get to see a film by Mark Romanek, someone who knows how to make inject something with a strong balance between style and substance.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Satisfied (at the amount of work I'm getting done!)

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