Much like The Handmaid’s Tale (with which Romanek’s movieshares many an intimate moment), Never let me go is total bullshit. If you read it from the SF perspective, that is. This requires some elaboration though I’m not sure if I’ll get around to that. It would require much more time than I have available right now. Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, Never let me go is a story about people getting used to their destinies. There is a significant difference though. The Handmaid’s Tale is political about it while Never let me go takes a more passive approach. In both cases destines that our characters have to get used to are nothing more than a political construct (even if the power of metaphor takes them further away). In both cases the System provides (and enforces) the Rules while individual have to come to terms with them or perish. Neither Romanek nor Ishiguro (whose novel this film is adapting) care much about the inner workings of the System. It just is. This alone moves the movie farther away from dystopia and brings it closer towards the allegory. Thing is, Never let me go is dangerously apolitical, almost fatalistic allegory which is one more reason why this shouldn’t be read as an SF. Or at least not as a good SF.
But, never you mind that. Never let me go provides ample opportunities for quality analysis. It just the matter of picking on things that irritate you (different approaches are viable as well, though hardly so amusing). There are things which Romanek does good. I’ll talk about them in a moment. There are things where he’s playing more on a safe side. If you think of manipulative, “exaggerated” musical score, drab palette of color that’s supposed to represent the drabness of the world our characters live in, some interpersonal theatrics, fucking voice-over (because we can’t have a successful adaptation of the book without voice-over, right?) and conservative scenography you’re thinking in the right direction. Those things take away some of the impact of this movie though much of it actually survives the mediocre direction. Never let me go was never supposed to be a Hollywood spectacle about evil dystopias (I was much relieved when it became obvious that no one is going to spell the situation out for you). It was always supposed to be a drama about people dealing with life which is, by definition, dystopian.
In this context of interpersonal drama, first part of the movie does extremely well. It spells out the entire situation for you without ever being direct about it (well, the teacher incident is as direct as it goes though it’s coherent and logical so there’s not much to be pissed about there), it builds its characters nicely, it evokes the sense of dread once when the realization of the situation sinks in and so on. The broad metaphorical strokes lead you to many a direction up to a point where you realize that this is neither futuristic nor alternative history environment. The logic of domination that’s insisting upon the idea that you have to give back to society because society took care of you when you were young is neither alien nor dead concept. The metaphoric interpretation goes just so far. While it is certainly possible (or even expected) to read this movie within the framework of how to deal with an imminent death sentence (where one must remember that we all have imminent death sentence upon us), that line of inquiry overlooks the problem of ideology. While biological death is, as far as we know, imminent the abrupt one – linked with a cause or purpose – is nothing but a political oppression. The fact that every character is far more inclined to just accept their role in society instead of trying to do something about it is alarming at the least.
This is, of course, not unheard of. Both history and present reminds us of this whenever new concentration camp springs about (The Handmaid’s Tale relied heavily on this, though it chose to show the logic of submission and it did that extremely well… at least the book did). Still, one should think that some respite, or some revolutionary passion should be present in fiction, even if it’s so rare in the real life. Fiction should choose to challenge status quo (if you’re romantically inclined you could say that it should inspire) but Never let me go chooses to ignore that calling. Whatever else it might be, it’s hard not to notice the “hidden message” – however ridiculous your life might be, you should just learn to cope with it. It’s far more fulfilling than trying to change what cannot be changed. The rulers of the world are far too detached and far too protected to do anything about it. I don’t know about you, but I’m having serious trouble with that kind of ideology. Romanek and Ishiguro apparently don’t.
|Directed by||Mark Romanek|
|Screenplay by||Alex Garland|
|Based on||Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
|Narrated by||Carey Mulligan|
|Music by||Rachel Portman|
|Editing by||Barney Pilling|