Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

School of Thought 

The new Peter Parker has another secret in Never Let Me Go

It's best if you know a thing or two about Never Let Me Go before you see it. First of all, it's based on an acclaimed 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro about three kids raised in a boarding school. Second, it's something of a science-fiction story — and here comes a spoiler, so maybe skip this paragraph if these sorts of things bother you — set in a futuristic England where humans are cloned so they can become organ donors when they grow up. Because of their sacrifices, others can live to be more than a hundred.

This information helps director Mark Romanek's movie version of Ishiguro's complex novel unfold more naturally. Without it, the world Kathy (Keira Knightley), Tommy (Andrew Garfield, who'll play Spider-Man when the franchise is rebooted in 2012), and Ruth (Carey Mulligan) inhabit comes off as one without much heart or feeling. But in truth, it's the complete opposite: It has spawned three very passionate characters whose very real feelings set the story in motion.

It starts in 1978 at the school, where the three friends are raised on a Merchant Ivory-style campus complete with ivy walls climbing the ancient buildings. It's a typical boarding-school environment we've seen countless times in films: ties for boys, skirts for girls, plenty of good manners, etc. From the start, the students are told that they're special, and keeping healthy is paramount. (Later, a grown-up Kathy, narrating the tale, refers to herself as a machine, but without a hint of regret.)

As the kids blossom from preteens to teens to young adults to adults, their lives halfway mirror the outside world. They play, they form cliques, they fall in love. But a trip to a diner one afternoon proves there's so much they don't know about real life.

In addition to its fantasy elements, Never Let Me Go is a love story between Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth. By the time the children's fate is revealed, we've come to appreciate these characters and their emotions, even if they're not completely aware of their destinies.

Like many period dramas (and yes, Never Let Me Go is a period drama, albeit a most unconventional one), the film is slow-moving at times, especially during its early scenes. But once the kids grow into Knightley, Garfield, and Mulligan, it becomes a very well-acted period piece. Mulligan — who was nominated for a well-deserved Oscar for last year's An Education — is wonderful as the young woman who resigns herself to her fateful position. "I feel a great sense of pride in what we do," she says in the opening scene.

Romanek rarely builds up any sort of tension, urgency, or conflict. That has somewhat to do with the fact that there isn't much of it in the original story. There's a subplot involving a mythical woman who can grant reprieves to special couples, but you can figure out how that will end. Never Let Me Go is a smart, fascinating, and methodical story, and the movie plays at its orderly pace. It's a subtle work (no uprisings or daring escapes here), but it's also a lingering one. You may not empathize with the ill-fated characters, but you'll certainly feel for them.

Send feedback to mgallucci@clevescene.com.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Latest in Screens

More by Michael Gallucci

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

Staff Pick Events

  • Season's Bleedings @ Capitol Theatre

    • Sat., Dec. 4
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show @ Cedar Lee Theatre

    • First Saturday of every month

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation