By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
While hardly a pop-culture buzzword, Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go is one of the most respected and accomplished novels of the last decade. Some saw it as unfilmable due to its meditative look at what it is to be human and a slow-burning yet devastating plot driven by prose. However, a script as actually in place shortly after it was published, adapted from an advance copy the scriptwriter obtained and approved by Ishiguro himself.
Director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) has now brought this to the screen, and it does play like a book.
Dull and heavy?
Not really. A definite toast has to be given to how much the film does capture the spirit of the novel and particularly the gorgeousness of its writing, rendering it into a beauty of performance and image. The acting and casting is great, especially that of fast on the rise stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. The child actors they got to do their and Keira Knightley’s younger versions are spot-on. The cinematography and set design are all excellent as well, and as a piece of visual art it succeeds admirably.
Not so much here, but you have to admire the effort
The problem when you combine the prose of a poet with a painter’s sensibility is that the story can get a little lost in the details. Partially due to the slow pacing that augments the visual style and partially because of poor trailer and scripting strategy, the big reveal of the plot didn’t have the impact it should have. Since this is the fulcrum of both character and audience emotional response, it’s kind of a big deal.
A second beer is deserved by the sci-fi world the story takes place in. It is essentially an alternate universe where a momentous medical discovery took place in the 50s. We grow up with these characters in a world that is never more than subtly different from our own. I don’t have so much of a problem with the concept, which is actually kinda sweet, but rather with the follow-through. The most-used engine for this is popular media, but the end-effect is little bursts of hokeyness in an otherwise elegant film. Surely they could have said 80s more effectively than via sitcoms.
Always the classiest portrayal of a an era
It comes closer to capturing the majesty of good writing than most, but it ultimately falls somewhat short as a movie. Be prepared for slow and thought-provoking…
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone stares longingly
Take a Drink: every time someone says “donation”
Drink a Shot: whenever Carey Mulligan looks worried while driving