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81 out of 136 people found the following review useful:

The Film To See If You Like Getting Bored Into A Coma!

1/10
Author: Michael McGonigle (mmcgonigle@philamuseum.org) from Philadelphia, PA.
23 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was really looking forward to this film. I like all the actors and the technical credits looked promising. I felt this film might live or die by its script but seeing Alex Garland's name attached was a bonus. I liked his previous work; The Beach, most of Sunshine and I especially loved 28 Days Later.

That Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the novel this film is based on was less impressive for me. I do not know the mans literary work and regarding film work, one of the better Merchant/Ivory films, The Remains Of The Day was based on an Ishiguro novel, so I was not unduly alarmed when I sat down.

I also have, make that HAD, no strong opinion about the competence of director Mark Romanek and some films, despite the "auteur theory" are not director made.

Never Let Me Go looked like one of those. What I neglected to consider was that a director could completely unmake a reasonably good story.

This film is a torturous mess. It is dull looking, leaden paced and they really should have had one or two more story conferences to work out the stupendous improbabilities in the plot. Now, I understand that the film takes place neither in the future, nor in the past and that it is presenting a world developmentally different than our own, but please, this film makes no sense, even if you apply the generally absurd level of sense that is standard for the sci-fi genre.

First, the "surprise" that these kids are being raised for the sole purpose of organ donation is stated verbally quite early in the film. But that's just for the slow members of the audience. In fact, the films ending, thematic point and character denouement are visually shown to us in the very first scene as a skinny, scarred Andrew Garfield is wheeled into an operating room to have his last useful organs removed under the watchful eye of Carrey Mulligan, the woman who truly loves him.

Gee, thanks Carrey, I'm glad you love him. Imagine what might have happened if you hated him!

But this whole organ transplant idea is just a clumsy allegory for something else because it makes no medical sense what so ever. The film makes some attempt at explanation for why this society needs so many organ donors, but it is a ludicrous premise.

If these kids are being used for say, kidney transplants, and human kidneys still work the same way and for the same reasons in their world, than I can at least conclude some nominal comparability to our own world. And here the films central plot point crashes on the rocks of reality.

For example, in the USA last year, 28,000 people were saved by organ transplants, out of a roughly 305,000,000 population. That's a very small percentage. Most of the diseases and accidents that can kill you are not fixable by simply getting a new kidney.

Then there is the utter passivity of kids. I mean, they adamantly don't want to die, but when they are let out of their holding pens to go for a drive far into the countryside, they return on time and on schedule. It almost seems like they WANT to be carved up into all their little pieces parts.

I don't even want to get into the utter stupidity of the film postulating that the third grade drawings of houses and cows somehow indicates that that person has a "soul".

Trust me, there are better ways to prove your humanity than by the creation of lousy amateur art. It's a ludicrous conceit and whoever came up with it should be ashamed of themselves.

So if you want to see a film with an improbable story by Kazuo Ishiguro, check out The Saddest Music In The World. But since that film was directed by the Canadian genius Guy Maddin, the film has wit, excessive eccentricities in filmic style and a huge number of belly laughs.

Avoid Never Let Me Go unless you consider getting bored into a coma a fun way to spend an evening.

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53 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

Yikes!

1/10
Author: CineCritic2517 from The Netherlands
15 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In an alternative reality taking place in the 20th century, clones of people are being raised in boarding schools for them to grow up as walking organ donors to aid mankind to lead longer lives. The film follows the short lived lives of several of them from childhood up, in the most lifeless and dragged out fashion imaginable. There isn't much of a story here, in between the excruciatingly overacted drama and ponderous thought provoking (the term is used loosely here) clichés, that is. The premise is asinine (Do they transplant brains too? Can't they just create soulless bodies and put them in stasis until such time an organ is needed or something to that effect) and the execution vapid and nonsensical. Any interesting ground that could have been explored, was conveniently reduced to a heap of hopelessly boring platitudes about inter human connections and done to death ethics involving human cloning. It plods and then plods some more.

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21 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

A haunting and thoughtful portrait of life and love

8/10
Author: Reel_starz from United States
14 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In general, adaptations of prestigious or well-loved books are hard to pull off. Not only do film-makers feel the pressure to uphold their source's reputation, but they must also imbue the movie version with their own vision, their own style and personal touch. For director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland, Never Let Me Go must have been as daunting a challenge as any: considered by many to be among the best books of the past decade, Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian, coming-of-age drama features the sort of quiet, intimate power that rarely translates well to the screen. Much of the story and characters is revealed through narration, and the action is so subtle that, if it had not been crafted with such grace and skill, it would have felt static, almost nonexistent. However, Romanek and Garland face these obstacles head-on and, with the help of a talented cast and crew, defy the odds by making a film that - in spirit, at least - stays true to the original source and still succeeds on its own merit.

For the most part, Romanek's direction is unnoticeable; it's not the self-conscious, mannered approach that plagues many indie, or even mainstream, dramas. Though he and Garland took some significant risks with the material, some successful (the reduction of the amount of exposition and narration) and others less so (the events and character relationships at Hailsham could have been more fully developed), he largely sits back and allows the story to unfold naturally. Utilizing a score by Rachel Portman that is reminiscent of Mark Isham's swelling, elegant music for 1999's October Sky and Adam Kimmel's bleak yet gorgeous cinematography, the film-makers avoid the stilted feel of many literary adaptations, instead creating something that is deeply emotional and thought-provoking.

As the three leads, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield are perfectly cast. Sporting shorter and blonder hair than in her breakout, award-attracting performance in last year's An Education, Mulligan manages to simultaneously convey childlike innocence and the grave maturity usually seen only in older actresses - or people, for that matter. Keira Knightley was someone who, even more than the other two, I could instantly picture in her role. She embodies Ruth, her crass selfishness, her longing and (ultimately) fruitless dreaming, and given her fairly limited screen time, at least in the first half of the movie, it is quite impressive that she was able to reveal the character's nuances as thoroughly as she did. Like in his other new film, the fantastic The Social Network, here, Andrew Garfield turns in a stellar performance. Though I admittedly preferred him in the former, in both movies, along with a much-hyped role as the lead in future Spiderman movies, Garfield cements his status as 2010's number one rising star.

However, what sticks with me the most about Never Let Me Go, both the literary and cinematic versions, is the story, the way it manages to be audacious, intimate and contemplative all at once. Grounded in real human relationships and emotions, what could have been a mere 1984-ish cautionary tale instead becomes a poignant, sincere examination of friendship, morality and what it means to be human. Only in the final scene, where Carey Mulligan's Kathy H., bereft of all her childhood connections, both human and otherwise, stares out across the field that was once her beloved Hailsham, only then does the real message become apparent: life is precious, and in spite of all the medical and technological advances humanity throws at it, death comes to everyone, seemingly always too soon. There are no deferrals, no second chances.

Romanek's Never Let Me Go isn't perfect or a masterpiece, but nonetheless, it has the kind of power and beauty that affects people long after the final shot fades away.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Unerringly brutal, but utterly beautiful

9/10
Author: Christian Cottingham from Brighton, England
20 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We are, most of us, pretty familiar with dystopia. An outsider, or group of outsiders, rises up in opposition of some malignant, controlling force. Sometimes they overthrow it, or at least register some level of victory, however ambiguous, as with Children of Men. Sometimes, as in 1984, the system consumes them. But always - always - there is the fight, the struggle to overturn whatever dark elements have taken hold.

There is no fight within Never Let Me Go. There is no conflict, no resistance, no tiny, token victory. The fate of the protagonists is chillingly accepted, their passivity devastating.

The film, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel, weaves an understated hopelessness through a well-worn science-fiction concept, telling the story of a group of clones created so their organs could be harvested for medical purposes. Taking place in an alternate Britain in the late twentieth century, where life-expectancy has risen to over 100 years, we first meet Kathy, Ruth and Tommy as children at Hailsham, a country boarding school. At first their lives seem idyllic, sunset hues and natural imagery creating a sense of a privileged rural seclusion, but the edges are frayed with tension. A new teacher, Miss Lucy, questions the children as to why they seem afraid to leave the grounds: their replies, as with The Village, hint at rumours and misinformation that have distorted their sense of reality.

The initial impressions of privilege are quickly worn down by the faded interiors, the dorm rooms sparse and colourless, the classroom desks worn and cracked. The students collect mismatched tokens to exchange for junk, their uncontrolled excitement at odds with ragged castoffs on display. Visitors to the school shudder visibly as they enter.

For the children, of course, this all goes unnoticed. We're led to assume that they've experienced nothing else, and whilst we're drawing dark conclusions they're growing up, and falling in love. Kathy and Tommy's growing affection for each other is tracked from early concern to backward glances in assembly, shared mealtimes and thoughtful gifts, until finally he's stolen from her by a jealous Ruth. It's a love triangle that dominates the rest of the film, as they leave Hailsham for a group of farmhouses shared with people from other institutions similar to their own. Food and supplies are delivered regularly in a van marked National Donor Programme, but otherwise they're pretty much unsupervised.

Which makes their inaction all the more awful. They each know what awaits them, each fully aware of the various stages mapped out until their 'completion' not long hence, but they do nothing to prevent it. At no point is there even the suggestion of escape. Many, many questions are raised regarding the extent of surveillance and control that they are under - wristbands clock their return home, their arms mechanically waving them to the sensor - but none are answered, and nothing is challenged. But that's the point: these are people - creatures, as they're referred to at one point - who have known no other life, for whom the idea of challenge would be incomprehensible. They're unable, even, to order food in a seaside restaurant, so far from their experience is it.

As a story it's horrifying, our gradual awareness of their circumstance - more clearly signposted than in the prose - quickly turning to frustration at the hopelessness of it. To be sure this is not an easy watch, and not one easily shrugged off or recovered from. All of the leads are excellent, Carey Mulligan particularly so but Andrew Garfield the most affecting, his hope the last to fade like embers dying in his eyes.

Technically it's quietly beautiful, long takes and nostalgic palettes suffusing every frame with an aching, undisguised sadness, ever-present and at times overwhelming. The soundtrack is simple, a recurring motif echoing both the melancholy themes and the character's calm acceptance of their tragedy. This is low-key filmmaking, certainly, but no less confident for it: Mark Romanek has done menace, in One Hour Photo, and here he's nailing pathos.

Is it Oscar-baiting? Possibly: it's certainly been timed to hit awards season, but it definitely deserves some recognition. Whether it gets it is another question: the trailers don't sell the film right, and there will be many who dislike the slow, measured pace and the lack of clear exposition. But Never Let Me Go isn't a story about answers, nor even, really, about clones - it's about our own powerlessness in the face of larger forces. And we can shout and scream and rage and try our hardest to break those forces down, but ultimately the true measure of our lives is in the relationships we form, however they may end.

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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Emotionally exhausting experience!!!!

10/10
Author: Craiasa Zapezii from Romania
12 September 2012

This movie is so unassuming in itself, yet so majestic & deep that it is simply perfect! Best movie I've ''felt'' in my whole life (40 today). It is profoundly disturbing. I was not aware I was capable of such mixed feelings, I always thought of myself to be rather shallow compared to other women fellow. Right know, I see myself if not in a different perspective, surely changed. I did not cry but I was not able to fully concentrate on daily routine and to have a proper meal for about a week after I watched this movie. I am still ''recovering'' after having been through this experience. I strongly believe everyone should watch Never Let Me Go; it would make paramount difference in your lives.

As much as I loved it I can still understand the spoilers' reviews or better said their point of view. After all, hatred, dislike or lack of reaction towards this movie is just another way of expressing emotional damage.

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29 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Tasteless Nonsense

1/10
Author: comqrnd from United Kingdom
5 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A really stupid film. Cloned humans willingly allow themselves to be butchered for spare parts. This is simultaneously silly and gruesome: clones without an eye or hopping around without a leg - Keira Knightley pushing around a walking frame after she's had most of her organs removed. Tacked onto this is an unrelentingly dire love story: girl likes boy, girl looses boy, girl gets boy back but he's about to be butchered.

Still if I had to be positive you have to say the actors take this rubbish seriously and put in solid performances. But aside from the rotten plot the film is so slow and uninteresting that after 2 hours you look at your watch and find out 20 minutes has gone by.

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26 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Hideous, Boring, and Illogical

1/10
Author: Joel Brook from United States
26 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What a terrible film! Why didn't they run? hide? escape in some other obscure way? No clue! There was no establishment of any construct that would explain this behavior. The characters were flimsy, empty, and unbelievable. They were free and angry; but still they would not run or hide. There was no establishment of anything in the film the simple terms that were used were barely even defined (i.e. carrier etc.) I would have quit watching the film but it seemed like it was going to get better all the way through and the only thing that really improved the film was not having to watch it any more as the credits rolled. There was nothing worth seeing in this film.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Requires a whole lotta Kleenex, this one.

10/10
Author: kaaber-2 from Denmark
8 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Actually, I detest science fiction. In the worst of cases, the make-believe worlds of the authors are so contrived that the dialogue is rendered idiotic because the characters have to explain their own everyday universe to each other so the audience can follow it.

So what was a great relief to me about "Never Let Me Go" was that it was science fiction without the science. Not a word is breathed about how the clones are made. Ishiguro's (or, for that matter, filmmaker Romanek's) errand is not to blame science or society at all. The story is purely existentialistic. The tragedy is not so much the shortness of the young people's lives, as the fact that they manage to ruin them with passivity and jealousy.

Based on another novel from Ishiguro about people who give up their lives to serve others (his breakthrough was "Remains of the Day"), "Never Let Me Go" is also a story without villains. It's like a merciless Greek drama, leading our characters to their inevitable end. 'This brief tragedy of flesh', as Emily Dickinson would have it.

The true tragedy in the film is that of Ruth (Keira Knightley), who, out of fear of being the one left out, steals Kathy's (Mulligan's) boyfriend. For some reason, Knightley's performance moved me to tears. Literally. And I'm not easy.

But, that said, the acting is brilliant all over; Mulligan, Garfield, and yet another reunion with Charlotte Rampling whose career has soared in recent years.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Emotionally Inert

8/10
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
3 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Based on the acclaimed novel of 2005 by Kazuo Ishiguro and directed by Mark Romanek, Never Let Me Go is the story of an ill-fated love triangle between Ruth (Kiera Knightley), Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) in a parallel universe set in England between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s. The premise of the film is that science has found a way to extend human life and to eliminate disease by creating clones whose only purpose is to live until their early adulthood, then donate their organs to science. The children grow up secluded from human society and do not experience a context for their life, such as parents, siblings, history, geography, or politics and are shunned by the outside world.

We first meet the three children in flashback growing up at a pleasant looking boarding school named Hailsham far away from any city influences. They play sports like other children - get into mischief, form friendships, (Kathy has fallen for Tommy but he is involved with Ruth and jealousies arise), yet have no idea how different they are. Although the children are well supported by "guardians", they are regimented, not taught to think for themselves nor exposed to the rest of society. There are "carers" and "donors". The job of the carers is to help the donors through the process until it is their time to donate their organs. After several donations, one is said to having "completed" their reason for existence but the word death is never mentioned.

One day their third year guardian, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), surprisingly reveals to the children the true nature of their purpose on the planet. For this disclosure, she is promptly fired the next day by the authoritarian head mistress (Charlotte Rampling). As the children grow up and leave Hailsham, they are placed in other homes such as The Cottages where they await their donations. Tommy and Ruth are together and Kathy is still on the outside looking in. Here they are allowed to leave the school grounds, at one time taking a trip to see someone that Ruth describes as possibly her original. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Kathy and Tommy (finally together) explore with their former guardians the idea that their status as donors can be deferred if they can prove that they are in love.

There is much to stimulate the mind in Never Let Me Go, yet there is little to engage the heart. While the acting is superb and the photography outstanding, the tone is laden with a morose solemnity and the utter passivity of the young people is distancing. I applaud the implication that the use of science without morality is destructive and inhumane and we can all relate to the injustice of the swift approach of death, yet the logic of the genetic engineering suggested here is dubious and unclear.

Although we can celebrate the fact that love is the key to the survival of the children in an existence destined to be short, there is no feeling of deeper meaning, no interconnectedness, no God, no joy, no hopes, no dreams, no sense that there may be something transcendent in the universe that everyone, regardless of their experience on earth, can access. Never Let Me Go is a solid translation to the screen of what is apparently a thought provoking book and I applaud the lack of maudlin sentimentality, yet for me the film remains emotionally inert and does not reach the heights one would expect from a fully satisfying work of art.

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18 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Some good acting, but emotionless storytelling

7/10
Author: Spike64 from United States
9 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been looking forward to NLMG for a long time, and while I was impressed with it, I thought Romanek was pretty detached in his treatment of the three main characters. To be honest, while much has been made of Ruth's character (Keira Knightley) being reduced to a one-dimensional villain, I thought hers was the only character with any depth whatsoever, and the only one I had any great sympathy for. She at least tried to make something of her life after learning what their fates would be, while Tommy wandered around lost and confused and Kathy simply passively accepted it. Were we supposed to feel bad for her when Ruth swooped in and snatched Tommy up even though she knew he and Kathy had a connection? Kathy wouldn't have summoned up the courage to go after Tommy if the three were going to live to be 100. As for the performances, I've seen a lot of praise for Andrew Garfield here but he just didn't do it for me at all. Carey Mulligan delivered another performance like the one she gave in "An Education"...very good, but nothing any competent actress couldn't have done, and leaves me scratching my head over all the fuss about her. Keira Knightley, especially during the final third of the film, far outshone her two counterparts and if any of them receive acting noms (unlikely due to the lukewarm overall reception the movie is getting), she's the one most deserving.

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