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Never Let Me Go

tn_neverletmegoLast year I honestly couldn’t remember which one was LET ME IN and which one was NEVER LET ME GO. It’s similar to the great “A ______ MAN” onslaught that made it easy to mix up A SINGLE MAN, A SERIOUS MAN, A SOLITARY MAN, THE EXTRA MAN, etc. And Denzel made a movie called UNSTOPPABLE even though Wesley already had a movie called that, and Seagal made BORN TO RAISE HELL around the same time as a gay porn of the same name came out. It’s all so confusing.

But now I’ve seen LET ME IN and NEVER LET ME GO so I got them marked in my brain and I think I can keep them straight for now on. LET ME IN is the one that takes place mostly at night, this one is in the sunshine.

NEVER LET ME GO is one of the best movies from 2010 the year we made contact, but it’s hard to get the word out because it’s hard to explain what the hell it is. I mean, this is accurate:
still_neverletmego
And that’s not the type of picture that gets me excited to see a movie. But yes, it’s mainly about those three good looking Brits, originally played by some younger actors and then by these three. And it’s about their relationships and fears as they grow up and what not. It’s adapted from a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, who also did the book The Remains of the Day. The script is by Alex Garland (SUNSHINE, 28 DAYS LATER) and the director is Mark Romanek, the video director who did ONE HOUR PHOTO and who wasted a couple years working on THE WOLFMAN with Benicio Del Toro before he had to quit.

I just knew it was Romanek and it was supposed to be good and I knew one other thing that I’ll get into in a minute. But first I would suggest just taking my word that it’s pretty good and seeing it fresh, because that’s what I did (only with somebody else’s word) and it worked out for me.

It’s not built on big twists and surprises, but it’s best not to know what it’s about. It’s actually a sci-fi movie, but if you watched it with the sound off you wouldn’t know that. There’s no action in it, no robots or lasers or even futuristic looking buildings to show in the trailer. I didn’t notice any special effects. It takes place mostly in 1985 and 1994, in a boarding school and some cottages with a bunch of fields of grass. No flying cars either. No computers. Nothin.

You can turn back now, because I’m about to tell the one thing I knew about it going in: clones. I didn’t know any specifics, just that it was about clones. But I gotta write a review here, so I’m gonna have to say more than that. This review is strictly for the Already Seen It or the Completely Unconvinced.

mp_neverletmegoThese clones seem like ordinary kids at a British boarding school. They have crushes and jealousies, they learn about the arts, get picked last for teams, wonder about kissing and sex and the world outside of their school. And like any kid they have a blurry understanding of their future. They hear stories and theories from other kids and accept them as truth. Some of the teachers at the school have qualms and disagreements about the ethics of what they’re doing, and what they should be teaching the kids. Don’t spread this aorund, but the reason for these clones existing is to be harvested for their organs. They won’t grow up to do anything else, and then they’ll “complete” – calling it something other than “dying” makes it even creepier.

The movie is very true to what it’s like to be a kid and what it would be like to be in this situation. You would yearn to see the person you were cloned from. You would want to believe rumors about ways to delay your “completion.” You would sometimes be angry about your lot in life, and sometimes accepting. You would want to fall in love.

Since I’ve seen one or two sci-fi movies in my time I thought maybe they could bust out the lasers and make an escape. Try to rebel, at least. That’s what usually happens in a dystopia, right? Even at least one version of BLADE RUNNER, if I remember right. Somebody tries to take the system down or at least tries to make a run for it. But this isn’t that type of movie.

I think technically it is a dystopia, because this entire class of living beings is being oppressed, and there’s another nasty secret in that they are apparently only cloned from the lower classes. Like maybe it’s supposed to make it more acceptable to use them to harvest organs. Oh, heavens no, we wouldn’t clone a doctor for organs. Just a hooker. And we don’t know what the cloning process is. Maybe it damages you. Maybe it’s done against your will. We don’t really know.

But it doesn’t really feel like other dystopias. To the rest of the world, the part of it we don’t really see in the movie, everything is great. The world is the same as we know it, except that everybody is healthy enough to live to 100, thanks to the sacrifice of these clones.

And you know what, they get a raw deal, but not as raw as plenty of people get in the real world. For a time they get to live a good life. They don’t live in cages or nothin. They get to paint and have friends and lovers. They get food and shelter. At least they’re not child soldiers or homeless people or chickens on a factory farm. So how much worse is this dystopia than the real world we live in?

That’s the beauty of this story, it’s about a crazy alternate history but it’s also about just regular old life. The clones are like anybody, they gotta play with the cards they’re dealt. They don’t like it anymore than anybody likes getting a disease or getting their leg blown off in war or getting paralyzed in a car accident. But that’s what they’re stuck with, so they try to find happiness where they can.

I’m surprised Romanek didn’t throw a couple wolf transformations in there to get it out of his system, though. THat’s the one thing that could’ve improved it.

.

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If you liked NEVER LET ME GO you may also like TRON LEGACY

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 2:54 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Never Let Me Go”

  1. So, it’s basically Parts: The Clonus Horror, only they’re all perfectly happy to stay on the island? That’s certainly an interesting direction to go with it.

  2. It’s true – my first reaction on seeing it was “Nobody tell CLONUS writer Bob Sullivan aboutt his movie, he already had to go through the motions of suing the makers of THE ISLAND.” There’s also a Philip K Dick book with the same plot, and one by another science fiction writer that got brought up a few times when Michael Bay made his terrible movie.

    Why do you think they titled the book/novel NEVER LET ME GO? (I mean other than the epoynomous song they put in there) Because none of the clones do whip out the lasers or go on a logan’s run or anything to escape their fate…it made the idiots from THE ISLAND seem admirable. These characters are just livestock making their way down to the killing floor. I know that’s kind of what Ishiguro had in mind with the novel, that they accept their fate “playing the cards they’re dealt” etc, but I thought it made them seem mopey and unsympathetic. I couldn’t wait for them to complete, personally.

    But I guess it’s not everybody’s cup of tea (get it? British.)

  3. Spares by Michael Marshall Smith ….but the clones are brought up like cattle and occasionally rented out to passing truckers by their orderlies. Then it goes really batshit by going into an alternate dimension that only cats can find the entry to….and being attacked by leaves…..or something…..i smoked more back then and drank cheaper booze.

  4. I liked this more than the book. The main difference between the two is that the book makes the purpose of the kids a mystery until it’s revealed as a twist halfway. That made the first part kinda boring for me. In the movie they get more time to ponder implications and such more directly. Pretty good, I liked it. The ‘proving-we’re-in-love’ part made me think of current European immigration policies.

  5. The creepiest part is not the turning human beings into feedstock. I can see people trying to pull that kind of bullshit, man’s inhumanity against his fellow man is nothing new. Including the convenient excuses to dehumanize: “yeah but, they’re clones.” Like “yeah but they’re Jews” or “yeah but they’re black.” So therefore it’s OK to treat your fellow human beings like livestock?

    No, the creepiest part is the human beings ACCEPTING being feedstock. You want some basic faith in humanity, that when given a raw deal we’ll yell, get angry, rebel, etc. Not just lie down and accept it.

    THAT idea really creeps the hell out of me.

  6. Baraka is right, that’s the part that kept me up at night. If you’re raised as lifestock and the whole world accepts it as normal, I’m not sure many people would rebel. This is similar to what the chinese kids making our sneakers must go through. This is why it took so long to more or less get rid of slavery and start to grant civil rights. Man’s ability to accept his own terrible fate.

  7. Ah lads …do any of us really care? About where our sneakers are made…..our PC’s…..the conditions in which these people work and live…..whats to be done can anything be done….and then somebody comes along and says I can save your dying sister by cloning a wee chappy from a far off land and removing some of his bits and by the way i can tack an extra 20 years onto yer life span and heres them pianists hands yev always wanted….. complacency….complicity….complete and utter tomfoolery!

    X

  8. “there’s another nasty secret in that they are apparently only cloned from the lower classes. Like maybe it’s supposed to make it more acceptable to use them to harvest organs.”

    This is just a nitpicky thing which obviously wouldn’t affect my overall opinion of the movie much, but this seems like a pretty weird decision by the writers, the whole reason for using clones in organ donation is so you get a tissue match right? I mean if rich people just wanted to get generic human organs fast they could just reform the system so you can pay extra to get bumped to the top of the organ donor line, or make it so legally every accident victim would by default be an organ donor and the only way to change that would be some complicated legal procedure most lower-class people wouldn’t have the time or money to navigate. Plus there could be some interesting drama with a clone being fascinated by the privileged life of the person they were cloned from, though maybe that would take you out of the more realist, less sci-fi tone it sounds like this movie has.

  9. I gotta tell you, I took my wife to see this because I thought it would be a nice date movie… sci-fi for me, romance for the lady. You know, went out to a nice dinner, check out an arty romantic flick on the way home. The fuckin poster calls it romantic god damn it. Big mistake. She seriously cried nonstop for the entire second half. Not like silent tears and sniffles, like struggling-to-breathe sobbing. She loved the movie but it really, really got to her (she is a stalwart veteran of weird and disturbing film and I’ve never seen her tak a film this hard).

    So, thanks for getting me un-laid, Mark Romanek. Good movie, but let a brother know next time, huh?

  10. I watched the trailer for this on-line and I seriously almost fell asleep and I was wide awake. Please tell me the movie isn’t actually that boring.

  11. Not as creepy sounding as WOMB, the recent movie where Eva Green plays a woman who gives birth to the clone of her deceased lover.

  12. Mr Subtlety,

    I like the phrase “unlaid”. It makes it sound like the experience of seeing the movie actually negated a previous sexual encounter.

  13. No action, no robots, no lasers, no futuristic buildings means no Ace Mac Ashbrook. And just to make sure that I am kept away from this, I watched Andrew Garfield wank on about it in an interview. The boring little shit.

  14. Maybe someone can clarify this for me: the school that the protagonists attend gets closed, and with it, we are later told, any public interest in examining the ethical treatment of the clones. Thus the protagonists are more cultured clones than their newer counterparts because they benefitted from a more humane upbringing. Did I misunderstand the movie, or did Garfield’s character at one point mention that the new clones are pretty much turned out at some factory? And that the public prefers this to the “dark ages” of cancer and lung disease? If so, that’s some scary shit.

    But at least it provides a sweet setup for the sequel: ATTACK OF THE CLONES.

  15. If creating a clone makes allows me to live, fuck ’em.

  16. Jareth Cutestory's Clone

    February 5th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Note to self: Remove Sternhein from Facebook friends page.

    Just kidding, bud. I don’t do that Facebook shit.

  17. I’m deliberately avoiding all spoilers of this, but I thought “Remains of the Day” was excellent, and that was also based on a novel written by Ishiguro. It’s not exactly badass cinema, but I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who likes a good political drama and one HELL of a performance from Anthony Hopkins – who convincingly plays a character who, for most of the movie, seems to be poised on the edge of an abyss (inevitably toppling into it towards the end), yet is so emotionally repressed that he barely allows himself to show disturbance at any of it.

    Oh, and a large group of very silly people disagree with Christopher Reeve. BAD IDEA. Have they never even seen any of his movies?

  18. Avoiding all spoilers of “Never let me go”, I meant, in the above post. If anybody cared. (I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.)

  19. vern,
    Nice going on this one. This movie got my dander up.

    The thought of something like this happing is truly horrible. While I’m not a religious person, I still believe in souls. I don’t have a problem with stem cell research or perhaps cloning an organ to use for a sick person I draw the line at cloning a whole human being. If we could clone people in the first place we should be able to clone the damn organ that is needed. No matter where they come from, if they can walk, talk, think, and feel, then they are human and we don’t have the right to harvest anything from them without their permission.

    In the near future I will be starting a new organisation. PETC People for the Ethical Treatment of Clones!!!

  20. We don’t need no stinkin’ clones! I mean we have a whole industry harvesting tissue and organs from dead people already. Some of those operations are none too ethical neither, consider the prisoners in China getting executed to body parts order maybes? Or the guys in NY selling off corpse bones and replacing them with PVC pipe. There’s a disturbing doc about these guys, Body Snatchers of New York, but I found the ethical implications of the movie just as disturbing and sad. I wanted the kids to try and escape and rail against their fate, but where would they go? I guess it’s realistic to have a society resigned to the practice, but really I’m disappointed there wasn’t an ending with an original parts only militant group of PETC (thanks Mac) soldiers raiding the clone farmhouse and shuttling them kids away to safety and new assumed identies.

    http://goregrish.com/body-snatchers-of-new-york/

  21. So what was Keira Knightley cloned for? Her pout?

  22. SPOILER ALERT!
    They made a choice in the movie, on the craft level, I found very painful. I’ll make the language murky even though I alerted potential readers of this comment with a spoiler alert. Late in the movie Kathy and Tommy visit Miss Emily to discuss something, and during the initial minutes of the visit Miss Emily indicates she remembers each of them by reciting some of the qualities and behavior they exhibited as children at the school. Just a little later in a following scene one of them exhibits some of this same behavior because of what they learned at the visit. Now I’d forgotten that that character exhibited this behavior early in the movie but would have instantly remembered and appreciated its resurgence. My question is did it bother you too that Miss Emily basically telegraphed the coming scene after the movie went to the trouble of so masterfully burying the behavior in question for so long? As the scene happened, all I could think of was how nice it would have been had she not said that very thing. Other than that, pretty good movie.

  23. The Sophisticated Panda

    February 7th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    My problem was that the movie was too similar to Ishiguro’s book. I loved the book and was eager to see an interpretation of it. But I didn’t. It was the exact same experience, beat by beat. Why would Romanek, Garland, et. al. feel compelled to turn this into a movie rather than letting it simply exist as a novel if they weren’t going to alter anything, enhance anything or tease out anything new in the movie?

  24. solongyoubastard, that’s why for people like you they made dumbed down movies like THE ISLAND. You can chose.

  25. AsimovLives – Dude you can call out somebody for being responsible for Bay’s atrocities whenever they actually deserve it, i.e. defending it or whatever. It was uncalled for to call SP a “bastard.”

    Now let me redirect you to my good friend Mr. Majestyk. See, he liked TRANSFORMERS 2. I know he’ll try to claim he didn’t but liked it because it was so absurdly stupid or whatever post-modernistic hipster jargon my old brain doesn’t quite compute. I do know for sure he loved those ghetto robots.

    But regardless, Direct any Bay-related anger to him. He’s a collaborator with the “enemy.”

  26. I think it’s a testament to my power and influence that I’m in the conversation when I’m not even in the room.

  27. Mr. M – That or I needed a fall guy so I could defend SP, and well son…you were called upon into service by the graces of God.

    Know the story of Lot from the Bible? Sent his two daughters as a sacrifice out into the crowd who wanted to “inflict harm” (or molest, whatever your POV) on those angels who came to Sodom to visit Lot?

    Your sacrifice shall be remembered. Or something. Don’t worry, there won’t be awkward drunk-induced incest in a cave afterwards. I hope not at least.

  28. Asimov – first of all, remember the rule is “don’t be a dick.” That means don’t pick out a guy and call him stupid for no reason.

    Second, Solong actually explained in his post what he didn’t like about the movie, you didn’t explain shit, so you lost that debate when you started it.

    C, Solong actually called THE ISLAND “terrible” in his post, so how are you throwing that at him? Basically your argument is “you didn’t like two clone movies, that’s why they made one of the two clone movies for you, because you didn’t like the other clone movie either.”

    You’re not even doing a good job of being a dick, so just be nice instead.

  29. Jareth, yes. I watched this last night, and there’s a fast allusion to schools like Hailsham (sp?) closing down and being replaced by something less humane (ha) and more factory like. I think it is Garfield who says it, which is like a free-range chicken saying how dreadfully sorry he is for those poultry-mill birds. And, in one of the many disquieting bits just outside the edges of the story, [SPOILER!!!] the guy who has been bred as if soulless (and is wrecked to have that made explicit to him) is apparently just as content as his overlords to feel bad for his inferiors without (apparently) doing much of anything about it. And not only is he closer to their situation than the “normals”, he won’t even be on the receiving end of the benefits the maltreatment brings.

    Really liked how this movie lets you do the math, allows you pick up any of the taken-for-granted threads that are lying around without hammering points at you. It’s strange to me that so many people were hung up on the absence of rebellion; the kids’ minds developed in a very insular place designed to limit them, and their gradual, limited exposure to society (which is largely complicit) doesn’t (can’t?) topple the lessons of their development. And of course you could make the argument that we’re all in that boat to one degree or another.

    Though it does contradict the tagline on the 127 Hours trailer immediately preceding NLMG on the dvd: “There is no force stronger than the will to live!” And people were uncomfortable with *that* movie …

  30. Just seen this at the local arts cinema. How come you guys in America get a British movie, featuring a largely British cast and set in Britain, months before we do in the UK?

    I don’t have too much to say about it really. And the reason I don’t is because it kinda left me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carey Mulligan. I thought the movie was clever, subtle, and the way it treats the whole concept of free will is interesting. It’s a very intelligent movie and a thought-provoking one, as far as it goes, which is maybe not as far as I’d like. Could they have made the same point in a movie that was about a third as long? Probably.

    So yeah… I don’t think it’s as good as “Remains of the Day”. It’s definitely worth watching and it’s very well done and acted. The central characters are maybe a little lacking for me (what exactly causes Kiera Knightley’s change of heart? Did she have some kind of epiphany, and if so, what brought it on? There’s a difference between leaving it up to the audience’s imagination and just not telling the story, and at times I think this movie steps over that line.)

    But I do have one BIG problem with the movie, and anybody who’s seen the Doctor Who episode starring Carey Mulligan, and who’s read my posts, will probably know what’s coming here. Let’s take a look at the score, shall we?

    So “Never let me go” has, for the most part, some rather traditional piano music. The trouble with this music is that it never really goes anywhere. Each bit is two chords, repeated, never really progressing to an actual tune. I have no idea why they score the film like that, but it bothered me enough while watching the film to notice that there was something bizarrely familiar about it.

    Then it hit me. THIS IS THE WEEPING ANGELS’ THEME, only split up into its component chords. Wha…??!!!

    So… you take one of the themes of an award-winning TV episode (“Blink”) starring Carey Mulligan, take the dominant chords of that theme, repeat them over and over again, and use the result to score your movie, also starring Carey Mulligan? What the FUCK? WHY would you do this? This does not make sense! Did the composer just have it on his mind when he wrote it? Did he not realise?

    I don’t know why you’d use a simple repeating two-chord structure to score a movie. I know I’m a fan of the “minimalist” scores, but this isn’t “The Dark Knight”; that movie had actual tunes, and even the “ambient” music worked superbly well (the Joker theme for example). If you’re going for piano music, you need an actual tune.

    Anyway… my usual gripe over… I’d say this is an interesting movie, and a good one. I didn’t quite “get” it, and I think it maybe leaves a little too much unsaid in parts and is a little too explicit in others. It’s definitely worth seeing.

    But of course you guys already know that, on account of it came out all across America months before it even hit the arts cinemas over here. Damn, that’s depressing.

  31. This is fucking me all up so far, because, since obliquely osmosising the meager promotion for the movie version of NEVER LET ME GO for the last 2 years and then just now reading the novel, I always half-envisioned the Kathy character as Keira Knightley. Now she’s playing the other girl. Goddamnation.

    Me brain’s all scrambled now. But I’m feeling this film version so far.

    One problem I have is that the film version doesn’t draw so strongly on the theme established by the work’s title. The novel has a lot of references, most of them subtle, to the “never let me go” ethos, the notion of one, despite the horrific challenges & expectations of this fucked up world, never giving up on another.

    Oh shit, film critic observation time: the clock at the 72:30 minute mark of this movie reads 2:22 p.m..

    2-2-2!

    Get it? Cuz doubles! And because of love triangle! 2-2-2. True story.

    Good fucking movie, this. Better than the book. How often do we get to say that?

    In conclusion, go see DREDD 3D [again].

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