Sunday, 27 February 2011

Never Let Me Go - Cineworld, Edinburgh - 24/2/11

"Never Let Me Go" is, genuinely, thought provoking moving.

Moral, philosophical and ethical questions like; what does it mean to be human? What is a soul?  Is cloning inevitable?  Is there any price that isn't worth paying to extend human life?  Is it ever justifiable for society to sanction the killing of another human?

These are serious questions that deserve to be given serious thought and consideration.

Kazuo Ishigiro is a writer skilled enough and human enough to be able to handle these questions with the requisite sensitivity and honesty.  We should be thankful that there is a writer like him.  He may well be the greatest living author; that's not a question for an oaf like me to even attempt to answer.

Thanks to the power of Ishigiros writing and the work of the gifted Alex Garland in adapting the novel for the screen it isn't possible to view this film without being left moved by the story, the themes and the questions being asked of you.  

The characters of Cathy H, Tommy and Ruth are three dimensional on the page and are reduced to sugar coated puffs of air on screen.  That isn't because the writing isn't good...Garland has done a fine job with the script.  It isn't the fault of the director, Mark Romanek, he is a talented director...just one look at the deliciously dark "One Hour Photo" should prove that (he also directed Morrissey in "The More You Ignore Me..." so he is faultless for me!).

Where then does the fault lie?

How can it be that with such credible source material, adaptation from a gifted writer and direction from a genuine talent that "Never Let Me Go" is never convincing, that it falls flat, that it fails to connect with its audience?

The problem lies in the casting.

People say it is easy to have a go at Keira Knightley, that she is an "easy" target, that it's just lazy to attack her on the page...the reason for that is that she is unique.  Unlike every other actor or actress currently working who are more than capable of giving bad performances that make you question their ability, Knightley NEVER gives a good performance that makes you more kindly disposed towards the myriad awful performances.  She is, quite simply, a terrible performer.

She conveys none of the emotional depth required of her character and, at times, the character is so under-developed as to appear even thinner than the ghostly Knightley herself.  Honestly.  At times it is painful to watch and listen to her.  She is beyond hammy, she is stiffer than wooden and she is more shallow than a swimming pool filled with one tear.  She is where she is by virtue of her own unfathomable self-belief...this is a person, lest we forget, who demanded an agent at the age of three.  She is the stage school brat who has made it only because of who her parents are and who they know.

As "Ruth" she is meant to be a woman possessed by a desperate desire to live, who will stop at nothing to achieve a few years more on earth, who is beastly enough to rob a friend of happiness in pursuit of her own the hands of Knightley this becomes simply another performance of a posh, simpering girl being posh and simpering.

Her doppelganger Carey Mulligan manages to spend the entire duration of the film with only one expression on her face.  It never changes.  Ever.  Happy?  Sad?  Desperate?  Angry?  Lustful?  Same face.  I want to believe that this is because Mulligan is playing a clone and that she has decided to strip her character of emotion in order to suggest that something less than human may lie at her core...but I really don't think so.  I think that she is, like her dear friend Kiera, not a very good actress.  Do you know who she starred alongside in her first major role?  Hmmm?  You at the back?  That's right, well done, Keira Knightley.  Incest?  The game the whole family can play.

Andrew Garfield transforms the character of Tommy from a complex, anxious, angry and desirable man into Dustin Hoffmans "Rain Man" thus rendering the desire felt for him by both Ruth and Cathy H utterly unbelievable.  He is all ticks, twitches and's a performance that makes you think that his casting as the next "Spiderman" may well see the worlds first autistic superhero hit the multiplexes.

I know, I want the plot and a review of the film but trust don't need it.  You just need to be warned about this unholy trinity of talentless but privileged non-entities taking a film that could have been something remarkable and instead making it the sort of luvvy fest that makes the British film industry look ridiculous on the world stage.  Just look at Rinko Kikuchi in "Norwegian Wood" in a few weeks and see what a genuinely talented actress can do with a script and great source material and then look at what Mulliknight have managed to do and tell me I'm wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mozzer, for articulating so perfectly my heartfelt disappointment in this film.

    At the conclusion of my first viewing, I reasoned that my negative response must have been an unfair reflection on the film itself. After all, a British Airways 747 is surely the only cinema that compares poorly to a multiplex. Plus, I was contending with tiredness; sadness; and the unwanted attentions of a male flight attendant. Surely, under such circumstances, I would have found any film disagreeable.

    And so I resolved to give "Never Let Me Go" another chance. Alas, I discovered that this is not a film that improves upon closer acquaintance.

    Merchant Ivory showed the world what can be done with Ishiguro's material in their truly superlative adaptation of "The Remains of the Day." Kazuo Ishiguro may very well be, as you tentatively suggest, the greatest living author. Regardless, what is irrefutable is that his works - and this novel in particular - offer beautifully rich source material for intelligent screenplay adaptation.

    "Never Let Me Go" had the potential to be so much, yet it achieved so little. Visually pleasing, I suppose, but sorely lacking in every other respect.

    You have correctly identified the guilty parties, and one can only hope that any future adaption of Ishiguro's work will enjoy even a modicum of on-screen talent.

    Thank you for your review. In all honesty, I think I enjoyed it more than the film.