Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Never Let Me Go’

Tuesday, September 28 by

**Sort Of Spoiler Alert**

Mark Romanek’s cloning drama turned out to be secret screening #2 at Fantastic Fest. Never Let Me Go is about a school for kids who find out they’re being bred solely to donate organs, and they’ll probably die after three or four donations. There was an action movie version of this a few years ago, but it wasn’t very good and didn’t do very well so Romanek’s version may as well be original.

More after the jump…

The first section, when the characters are kids, is a really sweet exploration of youthful discovery. It’s a little more sheltered and innocent than usual coming of age dramas, but it fits with that genre until the teacher explains the plot to them. When they grow into teenagers, they’re still innocent like kids.

Kathy (Carey Mulligan) loves Tommy (Andrew Garfield) but he gets more romantically close with Ruth (Keira Knightley). That is, if they knew what romance was, that’s how they’d be paired off but even that is awkward for these sheltered specimens. For all their education, they still can’t make sense of their feelings or physical touches. Eventually, the trio gets out into the world and they can barely order food at a diner.

The performances are good. They go from innocent to tragic at different points in the story. It’s a really mellow drama about how people live life with limited experiences and information. Once they are adults, the three characters only represent slightly different levels of maturity, but none of them are whole grown-ups.

It’s good sci-fi, just dealing with the concept of people bred for harvesting on a personal level. It’s not that exciting or eventful. They just have to live with this knowledge and either get the most out of life, or resign themselves to being a medical specimen. There’s not much to say because the characters are purposefully stunted, they have so little invested in life.

The language of the film is stark. They talk about “completing” as when they’re finished donating, which means they’ll die. Words like “donor” and “original” take on new philosophical meanings.

The film looks rather dreary, not necessarily because of the subject matter. Just every place from the children’s academy to the overcast city to medical facilities look very gray. Maybe it’s supposed to represent the lives Kathy, Tommy and Ruth lead or maybe it’s just England.

I appreciate Never Let Me Go. I don’t know if I like it. It does things right as a character study and maintains the ambiguity that the Michael Bay version needed. Other than the exercise of doing it right though, it’s not necessarily entertaining.