Months ago, by sheer coincidence, I saw Never Let Me Go and Black Swan at back-to-back screenings – a lot of intensity for one day. (And between Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman the most anorexic-looking double bill ever, but that’s another story.) I left the screening room thinking it would be a great fall movie season and that both films would be in the mix for awards – so I was only half right.
And even though Black Swan turned out to be my favorite film of 2010, I still can’t believe that Never Let Me Go faded away so quickly. Based on Kasuo Ishiguro’s novel, Mark Romanek’s film is an eloquently acted, gracefully shot romance. The triangle involving Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield (pre-Social Network, pre-pre-Spider-man) is a lyrical story of love, friendship and fatalism, of betrayal and forgiveness, a story that is only incidentally about clones.
Yes, they’re cloned. Best friends raised at a creepy boarding school, they won’t live to ripe ages because they have been bred to be organ donors. But the beauty of Romanek’s approach – like Ishiguro’s – is that there is no tinge of sci-fi futurism. Mulligan’s character loves Garfield’s, who loves Knightley’s – it’s a painfully real triangle, with the added pressure of a clock ticking down. They live in a timeless Britain that could have been yesterday or today, but definitely not some spacy future.
Mulligan, the strong center of the triangle, is as good as she has ever been, which is amazing. Garfield comes through in a much more difficult role than he has in The Social Network, and Knightley gets the big dramatic scene.
Awards may have passed it by, but Never Let Me Go gets its second chance on DVD and iTunes today (on Netflix in March).