Today I finally got a chance to watch Never Let Me Go, a film based on the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. And boy did it stun me!!!
Before reading this, you must be aware that the film is sharply divisive between love and hate. Those who love it say it’s emotionally devastating, those who don’t find emotion is the thing that lacked. Personally, I was speechless and had goose bumps all over by the end of the movie – for it was far beyond my expectations.
Narrated by Kathy H, the movie started with her remembering the old days at Hailsham, a boarding school created for a special purpose (which you’ll know once you watch the film – pfft don’t let me spoil it for you). Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth were close friends with both of the girls had affection for Tommy. The plot went on to tell the story of their lives as adults, and how awkward they all were trying to fit into society. With thoughtful restraints, beautiful dialogues, exquisite cinematography, and the perfect cast of Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield; the film led me into a strange, almost sci-fi, Huxley-esque world of medical inventions, genius twists, unspeakable sorrow, and saddening sense of imprisonment. The characters’ acceptance of their life purposes somehow reminds me of another Ishiguro’s, The Remains of the Day – both are bittersweet romances and wasted opportunities. Except that for Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy; they never really had a choice in matters of love, or anything else in fact; their fate determined by the society.
Despite the big twist and its revelation, Romanek (the director) constructed his narrative so expertly that there was no flash of horror – everyone was very British about it: calm, accepting, and melancholy! It was so tasteful, chilling, and gripping that made me wonder about life, death, and our purposes. Adam Kimmel filmed the action in sympathetic muted tones, his camerawork epitomised by series of still lifes – a ball left behind in a field, a fading doll forgotten on a shelf, a rotting boat abandoned on a beach – that quietly comment on the larger events unfolding later on.
Romanek rightly realised that Never Let Me Go would be most affecting when understated under restraints, which is why ‘the moral question at the heart of the story is unspoken...but loudly heard’.
The film is, of course, highly recommended. And for your information, the title came from a song on an American cassette tape called Songs After Dark by fictional singer Judy Bridgewater. Kathy purchased the tape during a swap meet-type event at Hailsham. Hearing it as a mother's plea to her baby, Kathy on many occasions danced while holding her pillow and singing the chorus: "Baby, never let me go." On one occasion, she noticed Madame (the curator of the school gallery) watching her and crying. At this time Kathy didn't understand the significance of the event. Many years later, she asked Madame about her tears years ago. Madame replied that the image she had seen was of a little girl facing the new world that was emerging, an efficient but cruel world, and asking the old world not to let her go...
Wasn’t each and every one of us once that little girl?