Never Let Me Go
I should preface this review by declaring that I love the book of Never Let Me Go. I’m a great Ishiguro fan and felt, on seeing this film version, the same trepidation that I felt the first time that I saw the beautiful film adaptation of The Remains of the Day with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. My reaction to this version was also the same as my reaction to its predecessor: I struggle to think how, with such delicately ambiguous source material, they could have turned this into a better film.
There are problems with Never Let Me Go. The film tanked in the US and left a lot of critics scratching they’re heads. What were the problems? Number One- The story. Ishiguro’s prose is always first person narrative and relies upon careful consideration and understanding of that character. This, traditionally, doesn’t translate well to the screen. In point of fact Carey Mulligan is probably more successful than Hopkins in converting the strong narrative voice into something tangible on screen. As a result she is considerably the best thing in the film and confirms her position as the best young British actress in the business today.
Number Two- Difficult characters. Keira Knightley throws herself into the role of bitchy, unlikeable Ruth with unquestionable aplomb, but it’s always going to be a difficult character to ask the audience to root for over the course of 100 minutes. Likewise it is tricky for Andrew Garfield (cruelly robbed of an Oscar nomination for his exquisite performance in The Social Network) to explain why exactly both girls are so infatuated with Tommy. Will these problems rub up against British audiences so badly? Probably not, the marketing campaign over here has focussed exclusively on the romance, leaving out the sci-fi element for fear of pulling in the wrong punters for the film they’ve made.
A well constructed film from tricky, literary source material. It won’t engage you on a gut-wrenching level, but it will simmer away for days in your mind.