Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

By Tom Houseman

October 7, 2010

And behold, an angel appeared to Spider-Man and his friends...

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I feel like this is going to be one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever written. I’m the kind of person who packs his film reviews with every thought I had while watching a movie, and I don’t plan on discontinuing that trend now. Only... I didn’t have very many thoughts while watching Never Let Me Go. It was... okay, I guess. It wasn’t really boring, it was just... pointless. I cannot figure out why superbly talented screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) decided he wanted to tell this story, or why director Mark Romanek read the screenplay and thought it would make a compelling movie as his follow-up to “One Hour Photo.” And then all these producers and famous actors also decided that this was going to be a good movie. I’m just, kind of baffled, considering how mediocre and pointless the final product came out.

Is this a movie about the meaning of friendship, or the meaning of sacrifice, or the power of art? Seriously, I’m not being facetious here. Please, if you’ve seen this movie and understand the message or the point of this movie, email me and let me know. If you haven’t seen it, don’t waste your time and money just to help me out. The film is set in the British version of Michael Bay’s The Island, which is a mansion where children are raised to be organ donors. Three children become close friends, eventually growing up to become Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and embroiled in a love triangle.


The story progresses in an entirely straightforward and unsurprising manner, with some dramatic violins substituting for emotional drama (Rachel Portman’s score is a compose-by-numbers affair that could be copied and pasted onto any Merchant-Ivory film). The story is broken up into three section, which Romanek color coded for no readily apparent reason. It’s not that nothing happens, only that the characters are so underdeveloped that it’s hard to care about what does happen. The only surprise in the entire film is Keira Knightley’s startling performance. Knightley has never brought much to a film besides sass and... something that rhymes with sass, but here she has the juiciest part and gives the only performance that doesn’t disappoint. She also provides the electricity for one of the film’s only interesting scene.

The scene in question, in which Knightley’s character confronts Mulligan’s, is interesting because it explores the complexity of their friendship. Such complexity is a rarity in this film, which tries to be a tear jerker, but never earns a single tear, because it just never seems to be trying. So in the end, I was left with one simple question: why should I care?



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