Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir says Never Let Me Go is “meticulous and devastating”:
Romanek does so many difficult things beautifully in this movie, which richly deserves the Oscar consideration it will surely receive. He handles a literary adaptation, he re-creates a lost world that is partly imagined but mostly real, he manages a group of characters from childhood through adulthood, and he gets haunting, underplayed performances from both Mulligan — the real star of this film — and the oft-maligned Keira Knightley, strong and subtle as the greedy, petty and finally penitent Ruth. (Garfield is also good, but his role is less substantial.) But maybe the best and most difficult of them is capturing the philosophical dimension of “Never Let Me Go,” which is difficult to describe with words, let alone pictures…
Screenwriter Alex Garland, who is himself a novelist, sticks close to both the letter and spirit of Ishiguro’s novel; this movie is a veritable clinic in precise literary adaptation. He incorporates snatches of dialogue and even voiceover (read by Mulligan) straight from the book, without swamping the human drama or overwhelming Romanek’s astonishing visual evocation of a bygone Britain.
Eric Kohn from IndieWire agrees, but not necessarily in a good way, saying the film “has more visual sheen than storytelling polish.”
An incidental sci-fi story that favors elegant imagery over content, ‚ÄúNever Let Me Go‚Äù has plenty of emotional baggage to spare. Adapting Kazuo Ishiguro‚Äôs 2005 novel, Mark Romanek (directing his first feature since 2002‚Äôs ‚ÄúOne Hour Photo‚Äù) sets his sights on a mini-saga that radiates tragedy in each scene.