Never Let Me Go – Review

‘Never Let Me Go’ at the BFI Southbank – Monday 6th February 2011 (With Q&A with writer Kazuo Ishiguro)

The opening film of the 54th London Film Festival (in October 2010) get its long-awaited UK cinema release this coming Friday, 11th February and was shown earlier this evening as part of the BFI’s current series of preview events

Warning: The main plot point of this film is mostly quite well know, but I have decided to remove any reference to it in my brief synopsis – but there may be some minor spoilers below


Never Let Me Go follows the lives of 3 friends, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) through three stages of their lives in an alternative version of recent history which shows a world where, following World War 2, instead of science being used to advance the arms race, it has instead been used to advance the field of medicine

The film is split across three acts, the first of which follows the three through their early years at Hailsham, a boarding school that is quickly revealed to hold a special purpose, where the caring Kathy befriends outsider Tommy only to lose him to her more self involved best friend Ruth, which sets up the love triangle central to the film

The middle section of the film moves forward to our trio, now all 18, being moved out to ‘The Cottages’ a rural living area where older pupils from Hailsham mix with pupils from other similar schools around the country, and for the first time experience life outside of the institutions where they have spent their lives so far while waiting to fulfill their purpose, but during the time here tension causes Kathy to leave her friends for the first time.

In the final act, we move forward almost 10 years, with Kathy now a carer, travelling around the country supporting donors as they undertake procedures and await completion. By chance Kathy encounters Ruth in hospital and through her meets Tommy again and is given the chance to recapture what she once lost


Never Let Me Go is a thoroughly stunning film in its writing (screenplay by Alex Garland) and subtle direction (Mark Romanek) but more than anything this film has some outstanding acting performances, most notably from Andrew Garfield who shows remarkable talent to capture the essence of a 12-year-old in the adult version of the awkward, quiet man-child Tommy

Carey Mulligan is also excellent in the dual roles of the adult Kathy, both the emotional centre and stoic stiff upper lip of the film, as is Keira Knightley in the smaller role of Ruth

Special mention, though, must go to the three actors that play the 12-year-old versions of our characters, who carry the first third of the film, particularly Isobel Meikle-Small as Kathy who is most recognisable as the young version of her adult counterpart along with Charlie Rowe as young Tommy and Ella Purnell as the young Ruth. With excellent support from Sally Hawkins and Charlotte Rampling, Never Let Me Go, has the best overall cast performance in recent memory

Never Let Me Go is a science-fiction drama for adults with the type of subtlety and nobility that a more action orientated film like The Island could old ever dream about.

Film 9/10 – Stunning and hauntingly, depressingly, beautiful

The Q&A with Kazuo Ishiguro, the writer of the original novel on which the film was based will be available shortly via the BFI website

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