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Never Let Me Go (Film)

June 27, 2011


As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them. 

Based on the best-selling book by Kazuo Ishiguro.



So I’ve never reviewed a film on here before but after being offered an early release copy of the DVD of Never Let Me Go so that I could review it and compare it to the book, I thought it would be a great extra feature on my blog this month!

If you’ve read my review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go you will know how much I absolutely loved it and that it was my book of the month back in February. If you haven’t read my review of the novel you can do so by clicking here.

I was extremely hesitant to watch this when it came out at the cinema. I couldn’t possibly see how it would be able to do the book any justice. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting great things out of this film. This is always a worry when a book has been adapted into film – you’ve already built up the characters in your mind, and there is always the worry of scenes being missed out, or alternative storylines being rendered. Many authors refuse to even be involved in the movie-making process and don’t want anything to do with it. However, Kazuo Ishiguro was heavily involved in this film, and worked together with his friend screenplay writer Alex Garland (author of The Beach), and with the director Mark Romanek to create something that truly did bring the novel to life.

I have to say for my personally, Carey Mulligan absolutely stole the show playing the main character of Kathy H. Carey was almost exactly how I imagined Kathy – quiet, reserved, inwardly toiling with her emotions and ultimately accepting the life that has been set out for her and her friends. Carey’s voice throughout the narration in the film is beautiful and for me it is definitely one of my favourite things about the entire movie. In the DVD extras there are interviews with the cast and crew, and Mark Romanek says how Carey Mulligan really gets inside the character and feels every single thing that Kathy H is feeling, and this is easy to see when watching the film. She is such a quiet, understated actress, but one who can bring so much life to the screen. I can almost feel how exhausting it must have been to actually be Kathy H.

The other highlight has to be Andrew Garfield as Tommy. I’d seen Andrew in The Social Network and was overwhelmed by what a great actor he is. He’s a very natural actor who manages to make it all look so easy. For me, the best scenes in the entire film were the ones with Andrew and Carey – they truly brought these characters to life, and every scene with them was beautiful to watch.

Then of course we come to Keira Knightley as Ruth – friend of Kathy H, and long-term girlfriend of Tommy. Here is where I have to admit that I’ve never been a big Keira fan and I often find she comes across the same in most films I’ve seen her in, and this one wasn’t much of an exception. Sometimes I could really see her as Ruth – irritating, selfish and ultimately full of regret. Other times she just didn’t do it for me. However, her later scenes are definitely the best ones, and she does progress as the film goes on. The scenes where she is full of regret for knowing that she has ultimately kept Kathy H and Tommy apart are her strongest scenes without a doubt.

As for the way the story was adapted for the film, for me there were some very important qualities missing that let the whole thing down. Once of the things I loved most about the novel was the way that I started reading it not knowing the truth behind these characters lives, so when it was finally slowly unravelled by Ishiguro I was stunned. I hadn’t seen it coming at all and that was by far the best bit. However, with the film it immediately tells you exactly what kind of world this is and what the purpose for these characters existence is. I honestly feel that the film would be ten times better if it wasn’t for this. The way it’s told to you in the opening scenes ruins every element of surprise and makes the whole idea sound a little silly, if I’m honest, and I don’t think it worked at all.

The other thing that didn’t come across as well on film was the relationship between Kathy H and Ruth. In the novel they have a very intense, at times strained but often very close friendship. There were very few scenes of Kathy and Ruth together, and I didn’t get a good enough sense of their friendship like I did in the book. The film itself is very short and I feel that it would have benefited from a few extra scenes between Kathy and Ruth.

Although the film did have some let downs, there were definitely some truly great scenes, and for me the best one above all is one that happened to be my favourite scene in the book – Tommy’s scream. Kathy and Tommy have come to realise their fate and the fact that they are powerless to stop it, there is no where to run or hide, instead they have to accept it. With this truth comes an outburst of rage and bitter resentment from Tommy as every bit of emotion he is feeling is released into the world. Tommy and Kathy know that no matter how in love they are with each other, it is never enough. They must do what they were created to do. Andrew Garfield was utterly brilliant in this scene and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to scream with such energy and rage for so long, and how much of his own emotions had to go into this act to make it believable and real.

The whole film is beautiful to watch – the countryside scenes of Norfolk and the way every scene is filmed like it is a piece of art, intertwined with the beautiful yet quiet voice of Carey Mulligan really brings together the stark acceptance of their reality.

I had major doubts about this film when it came out, but actually I loved it far more  than I thought I would. It’s not as good as the book, but I didn’t expect it to be, and most films never are. However, because of the quality of acting and Ishiguro’s own involvement I feel as though the film was a very good adaptation and one that has made me remember just how much I loved the book to begin with. I suddenly feel this urge to want to read every little thing Ishiguro has ever written. I would still recommend that you read the book first, but it is great to see the characters come to life on screen afterwards by such a talented group of young actors.


Never Let Me Go is released today, 27th June on DVD.



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