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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BFI Film Festival: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go, by second-time director Mark Romanek, is one of the films hailed by the critics who have seen it before its official release and it's set out as a possible Academy Award contender. The rumors seem to be true, at least in my case. A major improvement over the interesting but incomplete One Hour Photo, Never Let Me Go is a very peculiar movie hybrid, combining romantic drama sensibilities with a hint of science fiction, yet so elegantly placed that the viewer will hardly notice it's there. As the book that preceded the film, it tells the story of two young girls and a boy, growing into adulthood in the confines of a boarding school which is essentially a clone breeding facility. When the clones reach a certain age, they become organ donors, a process which is not instantaneous, but might actually last a long time with several operations. Restricted although the children are, Kathy (Carey Mulligan) falls in love with Tommy (Andrew Garfield), although Ruth (Keira Knightley) is determined to win him over.

The major theme of this film that sets it apart from almost every film in cinema history, is that these characters are faced with a horrific future, but they learn to accept it and perhaps embrace it. While most movies usually focus on an outsider, or a rebellion against a certain establishment or an idea, all the characters in the film are completely passive towards their very obvious injustices and that makes for a challenging viewing experience. One other merit of the movie is also that it doesn't feel sci-fi at all; it's shot like a James Ivory film and the viewer completely forgets that the story is in fact so far-fetched and is forced to care about the characters' plight. Naturally all the performers excel, with Mulligan gathering most of the credit; Garfield and Kneightly are also perfect, but they mostly act as supporting players around Kathy. Solid support also comes from the always dependable Charlotte Rampling and Happy-Go-Lucky's Sally Hawkins. One of the key factors for the film's success, apart from the elegance of Romanek's direction is the photography by DP Alan Kimmel; the film's main palette is very peculiar, being based on gray-shaded light blues and yellows, which to my knowledge have not been put to effect in movies before, especially in such a strong way. Never Let Me Go is one of the must-see films of the year, and the awards it will collect will be well-earned. 9/10

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