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Good performances spoiled by gaping holes

Never Let Me Go: Rates a D+.
Courtesy photo

You get two reviews for the price of one. The first is the NON-SPOILER review. And it goes a little something like this….

There are three amazing performances, by Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan (who is quickly becoming one of the most talented actresses around), and Andrew Garfield.

Oh, and Charlotte Rampling is there for those gazes she always has in her films.

The trailers showed this as a period piece, love triangle thing that takes place at an orphanage in England.

It is that, but it’s the late 1970s, not 1870s.

This doesn’t just set out to be a little art-house picture dealing with young love, but they have some deeper premises at work here. I’m guessing you’ll either love those or hate ‘em. And surprisingly, some might even be bored with the whole thing. I was never bored, but I was very disappointed at all this movie could’ve been and wasn’t.

Sure, it was filmed wonderfully. Some ethical dilemmas arise that are interesting. I just can’t get around the numerous plot holes and questions that are left unanswered.

Carey Mulligan almost saves the movie herself, with such a fine performance; but not enough for me.

I’m giving this movie a D+.

Now, for the review with the SPOILERS. Do not read the rest if you’re planning on seeing the movie (but please come back and read afterwards). Here we go:

This weekend, the following movies opened: Life As We Know It, My Soul to Take, I Spit on Your Grave, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, Inside Job, As Good as Dead – and all of those could’ve been titles for this film – Never Let Me Go.

You see, the children at this orphanage are there for one reason – they were bred to be perfect specimens, and provide organs for people that need them. Sometimes they die after the first sets of organs are taken, other times, they donate on three or four different occasions. And Annie thought she had a hard knocked life!

Now, I just did a quick read of what 10 random critics had to say about this movie – and all of them gave the story away. I find that odd since, it’s not that hard to put “Spoiler” in your review. And surely the filmmakers didn’t want you to know, because their trailer didn’t tell you the premise. You just think it’s one of those art-house pictures dealing with a love triangle. The least the critics could’ve done is respect that. And none of them did. When people find out 40 minutes in, when a teacher spills the beans – two people in the theater gasped. It’s powerful stuff, telling kids their dreams of being a race car driver, artist, or teacher, will never come to fruition.

There’s an interest premise in this (even if it’s not totally original), and I love the fact that they blended the beautifully shot movie as if it were a Remains of the Day (hey, another title that would’ve worked for this). And instead, it’s a sci-fi picture like Gattaca meets Logan’s Run. Well, not really Logan’s Run, because nobody runs. That’s one of about 10 problems this movie has. If the children realize they’re going to be chopped up and their organs harvested, wouldn’t that be enough to get out of dodge?

They could’ve had one simple scene to explain that. Maybe during their classes, we see a class that is brainwashing them into believing they are better for doing this and will go to some sort of heaven that rewards them (hey, it works on those suicide bombers and adults that join cults – imagine starting this brainwashing when they’re kids).

Or, we could see someone in Bora Bora as “authorities” swoop down, being able to track the person because of the chip they have in their wrists (we see them being swiped as they walk into their house, once they’re out of the orphanage). Yet, the movie doesn’t address this.

I also had a few questions about the proceedings. Since one teacher divulged this information to the kids in their “4th year” of the school (long before they were supposed to find out), at what age does the school let them know? Or do they ever?

The narration by Mulligan is good, too. I’m just not sure why I wasn’t sad during any of this. A few scenes were very, very powerful; but I cry at the drop of a hat, and never once did I shed a tear. Maybe that’s because, if they don’t care enough to try and escape, it’s hard for me to muster a lot of sympathy for them.

Of the 10 critics I read, most said they were haunted for days by this. And I understand that. When you see one character on an operating table, and some of her organs are taken out and we hear the beeping stop – that’s a weird ethical dilemma we’ve stumbled across.

When we see Andrew Garfield, finally with the woman we want him to be with (Mulligan), he’s walking with a weird limp, after going through his first “donation.” We also see some wicked scars on him.

There’s also a scene near the end where the couple appeals, as couples that fall in love are allowed to do (it gives them an extra two years to live).

I liked that there weren’t a lot of sci-fi clichés, but instead, they really didn’t give us much of anything.

Since so much of this was slow, I was doing a Mystery Science Theatre with my friend nearby. When Mulligan was driving a car, I said “I’m guessing her license says ‘organ donor’ on it.”

I had about 15 good lines. Yes, I was resorted to things like that to entertain us.

And as we left the theatre, we both had the same questions we wanted answers for:

How does harvesting organs make society live to be over 100?

How do the organs cure all disease?

But really, I don’t need all those questions answered. I’m usually fine just going with the premise, and I assume there are lots they aren’t explaining or we’d have a three hour movie.

But, I was left with a beautifully shot film, that’s very melancholy, and which I wished did more with an interesting story. I’m guessing Rod Serling could’ve done more with a 30 minute episode of Twilight Zone.

It gets a D+.