Never Let Me Go reviews

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Damien
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Postby Damien » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:57 am

I watched the movie literally a couple hours after finishing the book. Unfortunately, having seen the trailer to the movie last summer, I knew ahead of time what the nature of the characters and the concept was, which may be one reason I wasn't as enthralled or moved by the novel as I was by the two other Kazuo Ishiguro novels I've read (Remains of the Day -- a great book, a true masterpiece -- and When We Were Orphans). Much of the subtlety of the narrative was lost to me, although there were still much I admired.

As for the movie, it's funny but when I jotted down notes, I used a word that both Tee and the Hollywood Reporter employed -- "lugubrious." I found the film to be extraordinarily dull, basically a perfunctory, surface summation of the novel, with all the key changes being to the detriment -- most especially not having Madame see Kathy dancing with the pillow to the titular song. As in the book, a major flaw is our not being shown how the individuals reacted when learning their fate as individuals doomed even before birth (in the film, it is spelled out for them by Miss Lucy, but they are uncomprehending children). But what’s worse is that in the movie there is no sense of inter-connection among the three main characters. Whereas in the novel, there was a palpable lifetime of shared emotions and experiences, here they seem like little more than acquaintances.

It doesn't help that the cast is so unappealing. Why the pumpkin-headed Carey Mulligan is getting major starring roles is beyond me, and please won't somebody just make Andrew Garfield go away. A shame he didn't retire after Boy A because then we would all have positive memories. But after Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1974, Social Network and now this, it's evident that he's a charisma-challenged, mannered pencil-necked geek. And the character of Tommy deserved so much better.

AI: Artificial Intelligence handled related material much more effectively and movingly.
3/10




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Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:14 pm

I haven't read the book and you can check my review out in the Official Review Thread of 2010 thread. But I have to say that the more I think about this film, the more I like it.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:13 am

It was in some random thread, where we went off on a tangent about it.

I remember wanting to write a full review of the movie when it opened, but I couldn't find the time, and no one in the world seemed to be talking about it anyway, but I think I got most of my thoughts in here and there in various threads.

I actually read the book at the end of the year, and really wished I hadn't seen the movie first. Although I thought the book was still pretty wonderful, I was constantly aware of the fact that I knew the main concept going in, and that I was missing Ishiguro's gradual peeling back of the onion to reveal his premise.

I also couldn't believe the filmmakers omitted a moment as extraordinary as Madame telling Kathy about her memory of her singing "Never Let Me Go." One of the most sensational passages in the novel, and so emblematic of what the story is about.

I still hold the film in fairly high esteem -- definitely among the year's best, for me -- though it's possible that if I'd read the book first, I'd have been more nitpick-y (as I was with Atonement.)

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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 14, 2011 11:01 am

flipp525 wrote:The Original BJ and I both spoke about our admiration of the film rather extensively in another thread. I'm just not sure now which one it was. It seems impossible to find things on this Board if you aren't sure where you posted them.

I remembered you had, and went looking through both Official Review thread and the over-stuffed Last Seen Movie section, but had no luck finding them.

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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:43 am

I believe the comments are in the films of 2010 review thread.

For me it was the second best film of the year. I hadn't read the novel, but I was aware of the plot so there were no real spoilers for me. Carey Mulligan should have gotten the Oscar nomination that went to Nicole Kidman and, yes, Andrew Garfield was robbed twice over.

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Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:26 am

I knew that some people had posted about the film, but I couldn't find it either.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:13 am

The Original BJ and I both spoke about our admiration of the film rather extensively in another thread. I'm just not sure now which one it was. It seems impossible to find things on this Board if you aren't sure where you posted them.

I still maintain that Never Let Me Go is in the top ten films released this past year. And unlike, FilmFan and Tee, I wasn't as bothered by some of the more overt scenes as I thought the actors were all more than up for the challenge of adding the necessary amount of texturing. The performances are hauntingly good.




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Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Mar 13, 2011 12:23 am

Tee, you must have read my mind. I watched this last night, got on the board to see what others had written about the film and couldn't find anything here other than some trade reviews. Then, tonight I get on to post something and you beat me to it.

Plus, you capture my thoughts perfectly. Sometimes, having read and loved a book (and I only read it last fall) can really color a viewing of a film, and I think it does so here. I liked watching the film a lot, but I kept feeling that is because I loved the story so much. I felt as if I had picked up the Cliff's Notes of a great book, which can remind you of all the great stuff the book held and bring you back into the world, but don't quite get the same satisfaction. While I never drifted away from the film (thanks to three phenomenal performances), I felt like I was doing a lot of work for the film, filling in holes in my head that the film didn't address purely because I knew the book.

And giving everything away in one, blunt scene is a huge letdown.

The film certainly works to an extent, and has a lot of nice moments (especially the last 1/3), but it isn't what I had hoped it would be in the least.
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Postby Mister Tee » Sat Mar 12, 2011 11:33 pm

I'm afraid I have to invoke the dread "The book was so much better" reaction here. The film is not a disgrace of any kind -- it's a noble enough effort, and achieves some successes, in the later reels. But I think it falls short in several ways, not all of which are attributable to the difficulties in transferring prose to film.

First problem: it's a really lugubrious affair. I don't think there's a laugh in it, even in the early, bordering-on-carefree years. And the music throughout says Doom-dee-doom-doom. I felt like I was being massaged with misery.

Second problem: for most of the first two sections, I felt Romanek and company were rushing through -- planting certain relationships and information we'd need later, but failing to make anything connect in a way that felt like a story. There'd be individual moments -- like Kathy sitting listening to her CD -- that had resonance in the book, but hung limply here because they didn't seem to lead to anything. Seemingly aware of this, the film provides more voice-over than I've heard in any movie in a long time -- voice-over that seemed to do more to try and move the story along than any dramatized scene in the first hour. Possibly some of this came from not trusting the child actors, but the problem carried over into the scenes at The Cottages, as well.

And I might as well say it : l think the decision to completely reveal the main fact of the characters' lives in one early scene was insane. As kaytodd said below, one of the great things about the book was how we sensed from the start something was off, but only gradually, indirectly got a full picture. We certainly never got anything like Sally Hawkins' sudden, blunt declaration. The scene upon which that speech was based actually points up all the problems I had with the adaptation here. Miss Lucy only spoke on the subject because the kids were throwing around standard child-like thoughts of what they'd like to do when they grew up. And she didn't wham the truth in their faces; she delicately told them they shouldn't expect unlimited futures, expressed sadness over how unfair it was, including the fact they'd been "told but not told". She certainly didn't give the graphic "you'll have your organs havested until you die" info. In the book she seemed heartbroken for these kids -- not wanting to hurt them, but feeling a need to tamp down their irrational expectations. Here, by starting from seemingly nowhere and removing all hope, she seemed like one of those grown-ups who enjoys telling six-year-olds there's no Santa Claus.

And, on a narrative level, I think this over-explicit version of the scene is a disaster, because our slow coming to awareness of what's really going on with these kids is what makes it that first hour a story. Without that, that entire section essentially amounts to setting up a love triangle ( and in excruciatingly obvious detail. How many times did we get shot of Tommy/shot of Kathy observing him/shot of Ruth observing both and smoldering?)

I did think the last section -- maybe starting from the trip to Norfolk -- worked best, because by then the narrative cat should have been out of the bag, and the story finally had other developments to carry it along. Apart from some dubious dialogue assignment (Tommy seemed to have too many explanatory speeches -- like telling Kath what Ruth said about the porno magazines -- that would have been better worked into the narrative), this segment flowed and even built. The actors were a help, especially Garfield, who was just about perfect (if I'd known he'd given a second performance this good, I'd have been even angrier about his Oscar omission). But mainly it was that the scenes were considerably stronger -- culminating in the visit to Madame and Miss Emily, the one scene that fully lived up to how I'd envisioned it from the book.

I know alot of people here liked this more than I, and it may be it plays well enough if you don't have any point of comparison. I'd love to have liked it more, myself, as it's such a special book to me. But for me it fell significantly short.

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Postby kaytodd » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:30 pm

Big Magilla wrote:Oh. I thought he was talking about the audio or sound system.

Does anyone else get the feeling this is going to be this year's Lovely Bones? A competent but somewhat distorted film version of a beloved novel in which the actor playing the villain (Keira Knightley) is the film's primary Oscar hope?

Yes.
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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:55 am

Oh. I thought he was talking about the audio or sound system.

Does anyone else get the feeling this is going to be this year's Lovely Bones? A competent but somewhat distorted film version of a beloved novel in which the actor playing the villain (Keira Knightley) is the film's primary Oscar hope?

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Postby OscarGuy » Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:09 am

engaged audiences.
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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:57 am

Mister Tee wrote:Variety

A few faint wisps of narration aside, Mulligan does most of her work without dialogue, relying on engaged auds to piece together what Kathy is thinking.

What the hell is an "engaged aud"?

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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:15 pm

Hollywood Reporter finally weighs in.

As this review says, there are people who love it and people who don't -- and the ones who don't almost uniformly have these same problems.


Never Let Me Go -- Film Review
By Stephen Farber, September 06, 2010 08:34 ET
"Never Let Me Go"Bottom Line: Lugubrious study of the perils of genetic engineering.
TELLURIDE -- Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go" is definitely an art object, but is it a work of art? Expertly acted, impeccably photographed, intelligently written, even intermittently touching, the film is also too parched and ponderous to connect with a large audience. Fox Searchlight is hoping for awards consideration for the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's acclaimed novel, but this will depend on the reviews, which are likely to be split between those who consider the film a bleak masterpiece and others who find it straining so mightily for aesthetic perfection that it fails to provide a gripping narrative. In any case, the downbeat nature of the material will prove a challenge at the box office.

Ishiguro's tale centers on the relationship of three young people -- Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). They have no last names because they are not ordinary people. Gradually, we learn that they are scientific specimens, created in the laboratory and raised in order to provide their organs to desperately ill patients. Ishiguro's novel was praised for translating his typical moral and psychological concerns to a science fictional tale. "Never" is not set in the future but in a parallel universe where medical experimentation has been taking place without the knowledge of most ordinary people.

The first problem with the movie is that it never completely lays out the logic of this parallel universe. The cloning process itself is shrouded in mystery. Screenwriter Alex Garland probably wanted us to share the limited knowledge of the characters, but this idea could have been maintained while providing just a touch more crucial clarity for the audience.

Another problem is that the theme of the dangers of medical experimentation is a rather tired mainstay of speculative fiction, going back at least to "Frankenstein," one of the first horror stories to underscore the risks of tampering with Mother Nature. This theme is less startling than the filmmakers may realize, which would be less of a problem if the message were not delivered in such a solemn, portentous manner.

What does save the film intermittently is the poignancy of the love story, which is bolstered by the skill of the performances. The film opens at a boarding school, where three excellent child actors -- Isobel Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell and Charlie Rowe - embody the three protagonists, and Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins contribute vivid supporting turns as teachers. Even at this early stage, a romantic triangle is brewing. Kathy and Tommy are drawn to each other, but the manipulative Ruth interferes and tries to claim Tommy for herself. When the characters grow up, the three stars perform impressively. Mulligan is luminous as the leader of the pack, and Garfield plays his more simple-minded character with marvelous expressiveness. Knightley manages to create a three-dimensional villain.

The most affecting theme of the film is the notion that even among these scientifically engineered creatures, love provides meaning to their shortened existence. Mulligan and Garfield play their parts with such conviction that we get caught up in their doomed romance.

The design of this familiar but slightly surreal universe is well rendered, and some of the visual compositions are haunting. But the pacing is fearfully slow, and the elliptical storytelling works against audience involvement. The issues of medical ethics are undeniably timely, but dramatically, the film, rather like the beautiful Frankenstein monsters on display, only comes alive in fits and starts.

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Postby kaytodd » Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:43 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I loved the book, but I think it's a work of great delicacy that will need wonderful skill and luck besides to translate well to the screen. I thought Ishiguro's technique of letting us slowly comprehend the set-up -- in the words of one character in the book, we are "told but not told" -- worked beautifully on the page, but may be more problematic on the screen.

I feel the same about this project. I expect films to be very different from their source novels but this film will have to be a completely different experience from the novel. The beginning chapters go back and forth in time. We start with Kathy (Mulligan) as a woman in her mid twenties driving to visit Ruth (Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). They were classmates at an English boarding school, Halisham (?). We get to know intimately all three characters both as young adults and as teenagers during flashbacks to their school days.

I was totally caught up in these characters and the details of their lives both at the school and as young adults. On the surface, they seemed to live ordinary lives at the boarding school and as young adults. But, sprinkled throughout the novel are words, expressions and episodes that seem a little "off". You slowly realize there is something different about these characters and their classmates and their lives after leaving the school. The tension is based on discovering what it is about this school and its students and alumnae that set them apart.

When I found out the truth about a third of the way into the novel it was like being punched in the stomach. I stared into space for a few minutes, thinking back to the parts of the book that seemed "off". I suddenly understood what certain expressions and episodes meant. I re-read entire chapters with this new knowledge and they became even more meaningful and moving. And getting this new information after getting to know the characters so well had the same effect on me throughout the remainder of the novel.

I am approaching this film with some trepidation. Without the "mystery" filmgoers will need to find these characters even more interesting than I did. Audiences will go into this knowing this is a film about people who live their whole lives knowing they are nothing but providers of spare parts for others. Will we pay ten dollars to see a film about this? We will if the screenwriter, director and actors make these characters and their lives interesting.

How do you do that? The reviews indicate Romanek is going the tear jerker rather then the social commentary route (The novel presents an alternate history. Cloning was developed in the 1950's and schools like Halisham spread all over England during the 1960's. There was a lot of controversy during the 1970's, when these characters were in school, about what rights clones have.). Sounds like a plan and he has good talent in front of and behind the camera. But I am skeptical about whether audiences in general will find this worth their ten dollars. I will see it, though.




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