Did anybody notice that the plots of this film and Michael Bay's The Island are shockingly similar?
So this film has been taking a lot of shit for not being as good as the book. now I've not read Kazuo Ishiguro's novel so I'm in no position to speak as to its qualities. But I think in general, films based on books with a good reputation tend to take a lobby of unjustified shit from purists. Blindness for example, was a very well-executed film, given tepid reviews, the main gripe being it wasn't quite as good the book. Honest to god it makes me never want to read another book again in my life, just in case ever comes the day where they make it into a film and there I'll be, with my impossible standards and deeply personal expectations that are sure to be shot down. I'm not saying Never Let Me Go is better then its book, I'm sure its not. What I'm saying is how good the book is shouldn't matter to how you see the movie. It is its own entity, and saying otherwise is being instantly unfair.
Same goes for remakes to be honest. Each film should be given the right to succeed or fail on its own terms, and looked at in that way, Never Let Me Go works more then it doesn't. There's the occasional triteness or simplification, sure. Is Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, necessarily the best guy to write an intimate, expansive tale of inner emotional suffering? Probably not, to be honest, but I think he gives it his best shot. Director Mark Romanek is a guy I've liked in the past, and he does an admirable, realistic job with the material, playing down the histrionics to tell a horribly repressed examination of mortality, one where you have to face your impending and unavoidable demise with politeness and a blind eye. That for me struck something, and while the central love triangle is not executed all that well, I nonetheless felt for at least two of the characters, even if I didn't care about their relationship with each other. Carey Mulligan in particular is fucking heartbreaking in how little she exhibits, living out an existential hell on earth with a stiff upper lip, Mulligan is the youngest of this cast, but her performance is mature beyond her age or anything else her cast-members can muster, I liked her in An Education, but her performance in this is much better, although she'll receive a slither of the plaudits.
Andrew Garfield, whose had quite the breakout year, is similarly very good as the naive, almost child-like Tommy. And while Keira Knightley is almost certainly the weak link amongst the performances, lacking the subtlety and grace of her co-stars and giving a performances that's just way too wired for the tone of the film and the nature of the material, it's not like she's awful. Just emphatically the weak link. But ultimately Never Let Me Go is a moving film, not as a heartbreaking tale of unrequited love, but as a story of the sheer despair human beings go through when death is facing them, and the feeling of weakness that goes with. Perhaps because Garland is more suited to the ominous then the sweet, the romance always comes off a little off-kilter, but that doesn't matter because Garfield and Mulligan bring so much to the equation that they lift the film up with them. A deeply flawed, but an intriguingly quiet study of buttoned-up despair.