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Never Let Me Go

Entry updated 4 July 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (2010). DNA Films and Film 4 present a Fox Searchlight Pictures production. Directed by Mark Romanek. Written by Alex Garland, based on Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro. Cast includes Andrew Garfield, Sally Hawkins, Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Charlotte Rampling. 103 minutes. Colour.

In an Alternate World England where Medical breakthroughs in the early 1950s have led to prolonged life expectancy (see Immortality) through a shadow population of Clones purpose-bred for organ donation, a trio of farmed children grow up and come variously to terms with their truncated destinies. Ishiguro's gentle, elegiac Dystopia used a bravura combination of novelistic techniques to damp down science-fictional ways of reading, its delicately tunnel-visioned first-person narration channelling away questions and possibilities inconvenient to the novel's fabular ambitions as a meditation on the abbreviation of life. Adapted by novelist-turned-screenwriter Garland (see Sunshine [2007]) by personal arrangement with his friend Ishiguro, the film is uncompromisingly faithful to the book's defiantly novelistic qualities of voice and tone, but struggles to maintain its enclosed subjectivity in the more exposed perspective of film, in which the obvious nonsenses of the scientific and sociological setup only accentuate the implausibility of the characters' passivity. Both authors have argued staunchly against the lazy default Hollywood narrative of Logan's Run (1976) and the otherwise similarly premised The Island (2005); but this is somewhat undermined by the fact that the leads do in fact attempt to evade their fate at the climax, only to throw in the towel when they find their initial plan thwarted. The novel leaves the reader to piece the realization that the text is a work of sf, but test screenings in the US left some viewers indignantly under the impression that the UK government had indeed been factory-farming human clones for sixty years; a text prologue was reluctantly added to give the genre game away. The film is nevertheless quite beautifully staged and played, especially by Mulligan, and its drably English landscape of chronically underfunded dystopia is evocatively convincing.

Alex Garland's screenplay for the film was published as Never Let Me Go (2011). [NL]


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