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Eric Bialas in Telluride reviews Never Let Me Go

[NOTE: Never Let Me Go is built around a premise that reveals itself gradually with unsettling banality. The circumstances are made clear early on, but if you’d rather discover the situation unprepared then you’ll want to skip reading about the details that any review will have trouble avoiding. This one included.]

Never Let Me Go is a dystopian film in England that is based on the famous book with the same name. A school of students are being groomed to healthy lives for their respective “real” selves in the outside world. However, this is not a science-fiction movie at all. Although part of it is based on coming to terms with reality, the movie’s strength and core is coming to terms with relationships and love. Unfortunately, the movie distances itself from the viewer too much to ever really shock viewers when its main emotional scenes arrive.

I have not read the book, but there are some tough themes to deal with, and I think it’s something that works better on paper then onscreen. Carey Mulligan effectively leads the way with Keira Knightley trying her best to keep up. Both are far superior to the new Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, who forces sadness throughout the movie, and is given a predicted scene that doesn’t work when seen visually. Although can one really say that it was Garfield’s fault for that scene? Carey Mulligan’s second tremendous lead performance shows that she’s one of the best young actresses around. She shows longing without forcing a tear or a scream, usually its just in a stare that includes confusion and jealousy while she watches the loveless couple go at it in the cottages.

Mark Romanek shoots the movie with all the confidence in the world, with good camerawork coming from Adam Kimmel and a classical score by Rachel Portman. Ultimately, the movie peters out at the end, and when the headmistress delivers devastating, but predictable news, it becomes a waiting game for everything else to fall into place. I can say that because the movie uses a scene that takes place at the end of the movie, only to go into flashbacks for the rest. The ads for this movie make it seem as if the primary characters may try to escape their lives as donors, and one wonders why they never even make the attempt in the movie.

The Telluride audience reacted coldly to the movie as well, complimenting the work of Carey Mulligan, but never really being able to say if they liked it or not.


Incidental observations:

  • Rumors of Brad Pitt being in town seem to be just that.
  • 127 Hours is the sneak preview “surprise” for Saturday. James Franco and Danny Boyle will be presenting with a Q&A afterward.
  • Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe sold out nearly two of the bigger theaters in Telluride, and had good reactions all around. It is definitely funny, but possibly too British for American audiences to generate legit awards buzz?
  • No real movie is generating a “must see” buzz yet. Although most want to check out “Biutiful” which will have a Q&A with Inarritu on Sunday morning.