Film Review: Never Let Me Go

Walter Nichols reviews the film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s unsettling novel.

Never Let Me Go – 12A

CHILDREN Ruth, Kathy and Tommy grow up friends at Hailsham, a traditional boarding school in the English countryside. Like all children and close friends they love each other, ignore each other, support each other, hurt each other. But as they grow towards adulthood and are still kept cut-off from the outside world by their schoolteachers, it dawns on them that there is a lot about the world they don’t know about, and they slowly and heartbreakingly come to terms with what awaits them after they leave school.

All the children at Hailsham are actually clones, created and raised to provide organs for the “originals” they are copies of when the time comes.

The film starts beautifully moody and atmospheric, with children actors playing the lead parts. But then the kids grow up, and are replaced with stars – Carey Mulligan as Ruth, Andrew Garfield as Tommy, and Keira Knightley as Kathy – and the film almost instantly loses steam and charm.


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Instead of the haunting, layered, human complexity Ishiguro charges every moment with, Romanek settles for dreary and simplistic melodrama.

The film sticks close to the plot of the book, but without its poetry the characters’ actions are more infuriating than devastating.

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The story becomes a frustratingly underwhelming love triangle and little else.

While Carey Mulligan (who also narrates) is very good, confirming she’s here to stay, the film isn’t helped by Garfield’s and Knightley’s one-note performances.

Many will say this proves some novels are unfilmable and better left unfilmed, but they’re wrong – it just proves that sometimes, maybe, what makes those books so memorable isn’t something as obvious as their plot.

Walter Nichols’ rating: 2/5

• Directed by Mark Romanek. Written by Alex Garland from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Andrea Riseborough and Charlotte Rampling.

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