out of Five
Running time: 105
Beautifully shot, superbly written and powerfully emotional, this is a haunting, sci-fi tinged drama with terrific performances from both the three leads and the child actors playing their younger selves.
What's it all about?
Directed by Mark Romanek, Never Let Me Go is based on the best-selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Set in a world where life expectancy has reached 100 and all diseases can be cured, the film begins in 1994, with Kathy H (Carey Mulligan), a woman in her 30s, recalling her childhood years at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic yet somehow not-quite-right English boarding school, where she grew up with her best friends Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield).
As children, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy (played by Isobel Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell and Charlie Rowe) learn a dark secret about their place in the world when a kindly teacher (Sally Hawkins) decides to tell them the truth. When they turn 18, the three friends move to a community called The Cottages where they have their first contact with the outside world, but their continued friendship is threatened by deep feelings of love and jealousy.
Carey Mulligan and Isobel Meikle-Small are both terrific as Kathy (kudos must also go to the casting director, as their resemblance to each other is uncanny) – their joint portrayal of young heartbreak is achingly realised and both actors generate powerful chemistry with their two co-stars. Garfield and Rowe are equally good as the emotionally sensitive Tommy, while there's strong support from Knightley and Purnell, who manage to convey Ruth's capriciousness without making her unlikeable.
The film is strikingly shot with gorgeous cinematography from Adam Kimmel (there's a shot of a boat washed up on the beach that is hauntingly beautiful) and intriguing production design work that adds to the film's mysterious atmosphere. In addition, there's a dreamlike quality to Romanek's direction, which is heightened considerably by the commendable decision not to overplay the sci-fi elements of the story.
Romanek orchestrates several quietly wonderful scenes (e.g. Kathy listening to the title song on a walkman or the three friends ordering food in a cafe for the first time) and there are also subtle echoes of other similarly haunting films, such as Dogtooth and Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence.
Never Let Me Go is a beautifully made, powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances from a superb cast. Recommended.