Saturday, October 30, 2010
Never Let Me Go
Completely tasteful and entirely bland—that’s the central problem of Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek’s adaptation of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Set in an alternate past where boarding schools prepare clones for a life of donating organs until they “complete” (in other words, die), there is a certain haunting quality to the film’s banality, the dullness masking the horrors of this brave old world. But the film’s self-regarding artfulness becomes so intrusive that we’re soon watching nothing more than a scrapbook of the most common sins of the cinema of quality. The score, in particular, is a grade-A exhibit in preening musical affectation (seriously, do everyone a favour and choke a violinist today—at the very least, punch a harpist). This is the sort of film where people stare into empty fields at sunset and cry while the voiceover tells us what to feel. I get it, you’re serious and meaningful and profound, big deal. If I had a voiceover following me around whenever I gazed vacantly at fence posts, I’d probably look pretty deep too.
The love triangle between three of these future organ donors, supposedly the human spark at the core of this otherwise cold piece of work, remains hopelessly inert throughout (the film contains the seeds of a great piece of exploitation trash, perhaps titled “Young Clones in Love,” but opts for safe respectability instead). The bright young things—Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley—play the trio with a restless seriousness that suggests all are awaiting their turn to make sad faces at the camera. There is a tragedy here, in these three slabs of meat slowly discovering their meatness, just as the film has some real and true things to say about the painful revelation of mortality we all must experience and the feebleness of art in the face of this terrible knowledge. None of which can excuse the feebleness of this particular art in the face of the blackness that lies beyond harvest time at the organ farm.