“Never Let Me Go”
It is virtually impossible to talk
about “Never Let Me Go” without spoiling it.
In fact, by the time you read this, you will have probably already
heard something about the plot, which, unfortunately, would compromise much
of the film’s suspense and impact. It’s
a pity. Seen fresh, the
experience is quite startling.
So this review, in hopefulness, will
concentrate on areas of the film other than the plot.
The casting is superb. Keira
Knightley as Ruth, Carey Mulligan as Kathy, and Andrew Garfield as Tommy,
play three friends who grew up together in a very private English boarding
school: so private that the
children were frightened into not stepping foot outside the grounds, for
fear something terrible would surely happen to them.
As children, they were extraordinarily sheltered, remarkably
isolated, and, in the world of a previous generation without internet, cell
phones, or even television, completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Then we begin to realize that this “boarding school” is really an
orphanage, because not only do none of the children have any family, they
don’t have any visitors, either.
Director Mark Romanek’s style is to emphasize the quiet insularity
of the children. He shows a
rain shower from outside the building, looking through the dripping leaves
of a nearby tree. He focuses on
a strand of flapping paper, stuck on a barbed wire fence, while the
characters are in dialogue in the meadow.
He allows an entire sequence in the dormitory bedroom to consist of
whispering between the girls, Kathy and Ruth. He’s not afraid of quiet
scenes, or even silences. The
backgrounds are often still, and even when the main characters are grown and
take an excursion in a car, they wind up on a deserted beach with one
abandoned fishing boat, or in a small restaurant by themselves, as if unable
to interact with anyone, even strangers.
The casting of Ella Purnell as young
Ruth, Izzy Meikle-Small as young Kathy, and Charlie Rowe as young Tommy is
also superb, as critical as they are to the development of the story.
It’s risky to rely on unknown 12-year-olds to carry the entire
first half of a film that eventually centers on the adults, but the
transition seems practically seamless.
Carey Mulligan’s Oscar for “An
Education” was obviously well-deserved.
She’s the real deal as an actress, not so much because of the
breadth of her range: shouting,
manic, coquette-ish----but because of the depth she can convey by a simple
smirk, a silent tear rolling down her cheek, a furtive look of hurt and
disappointment in the eyes; quiet
desperation as a firmness in the mouth; hopeful affection as a sudden
decision etched on a glowing countenance.
Her craft is of such high quality that the others are bound to pale
in comparison, but the veteran, celebrated Keira Knightley holds her own in
a dark and unglamorous role, and rising star Andrew Garfield (“The
Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”) demonstrates a range that indicates we
could enjoy seeing him in a variety of other roles.
Yes, it’s a bit of a triangle---similar to the Harry---Ron---Hermione
triad of the “Harry Potter” series.
But there are decidedly fewer important secondary characters here.
Charlotte Rampling shines as the school’s stern headmistress, and
even later on gets to discard the caricature for a plot development that
portrays her with more vulnerability. But
this one is about the three kids, and how they grow up---or don’t.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace