Never Let Me Go is a movie that came out in 2010, based on a book from 2005. I’m reviewing it because of an assignment in my Dystopian Lit class. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
The film is directed by Mark Romanek, who’s worked mostly in music videos in the past. He’s actually pretty well-known in that regard, having directed “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay, “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, and “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. I’d say his talents lend themselves better to the short form than a feature-length film, but it’s an impressive background nonetheless. This film was based on a fairly popular book, so there was quite a bit of pressure, but with a team including a lot of great actors and the writer behind 28 Days Later, Dredd, and Ex Machina, it probably seemed like a sure fire success at the time.
In the end, the film lost Fox Searchlight Pictures over $5 million. And keep in mind, they only put $15 million in, so they weren’t even expecting a hit and they were still disappointed. Critics gave it a resounding “meh,” and many audiences didn’t even know it existed. But is it any good?
To paraphrase a certain group of people mentioned earlier, meh. Carey Mulligan is great, and Andrew Garfield and Kiera Knightley are practically unrecognizable as Tommy and Ruth. It leaves a lot of stuff out, but it generally follows the book, even taking most of the dialogue directly from that of the book, which sort of makes it a waste of Alex Garland’s talents, but I digress.
I think ultimately, the issue with the movie isn’t so much that it doesn’t follow the book but more that it worries about following the book too much. It feels more procedural and emotional, which isn’t good for a story built entirely on emotion. It’s like a collection of disjointed, often out-of-context scenes from the book, in real life!
This may seem contradictory to my previous point, but it’s also pretty melodramatic. The swelling violins often make it feel more like a horror movie than… whatever genre it is. None of the characters are really characters, they’re just vehicles for whatever words the filmmakers are trying to bring to life, bending and flexing around whatever feels most dramatic.
I wouldn’t give it more than a C+. I kind of enjoyed it, but it doesn’t have much going for it.