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Cinema visit: Never Let Me Go

Hmmm. Thoughtful, character-based, dystopic SF based on an alternate history premise. That's just ever-so-exactly the kind of film I might enjoy. Be warned that spoilers will abound in this review – but on this occasion no more than the trailer provides! I have rarely been so grateful that I didn't see the trailer before seeing the film.

The alternate history premise is that in the 1960s medical science found a way to hugely prolong life. The dystopia is that it becomes apparent almost immediately that this is by raising very human clone-children and harvesting their organs once they hit 18 or so – keeping them alive over the process of three or sometimes four donations. And the story set against this backdrop is a love story; if I was to be fussy I'd say that that's the only aspect of the film that wasn't pretty much specifically designed to catch my attention.

The story is melancholy and bittersweet, rather than angry. The narrator chooses to be a carer for the donors, which allows her just a few more short years before she too dies – but it's pretty clear that she's chosen to do so from a genuine desire to help the donors “complete” in peace. And in her role as carer she helps both of her closest childhood friends die. It is, as I say, melancholy.

In the early sequences the child actors for Kathy and Ruth are absolutely fantastic; these sequences are set in a boarding-school where the staff are trying to show that these children are *children * and that there may be some ethical issues with killing them. As such they are somewhat eerie; and I have to say that I love the way the story is structured such that we simply jump ahead years at a time and the reader is at no point ever * shown* how the use of expendable clone-children becomes a fair accompli. That kind of intelligent story-telling, and the assumption of intelligence on the part of the viewer, is something I appreciate.

There were a couple of subtle touches that particularly delighted me; one was that in the latter part of the film their old head-mistress used a wheel-chair. Given the school's mission to show the world that the children were *real * I loved that wordless detail. And the other was that the very dry sex education lesson using a human skeleton – was discussing the best posture to use for a woman to orgasm during penetrative sex. It was a small thing – but hugely amusing to me!

Another aspect of the film that caught my eye was that the director, Mark Romanek, was someone I was aware of and had been looking forward to seeing a film from. I'm kind of a Nine Inch Nails fan (more the older stuff) and the video for “Closer” is kind of amazing – as is the video for Johnny Cash's “Hurt” which is also Romanek. “Never Let Me Go” isn't quite what I might have expected; it's a very gentle film visually, sun-washed, nostalgic and not-quite-bleak. It's also quite, quite beautiful, to my taste – but really rather different than the frenetic air of both of the above.
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Missing Opossum

April 2012

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