Never Let Me Go’ brings emotions to science-fiction films

Peep show: Clones Carey Mulligan (left) and Keira Knightley look into the real world.

The Details

Never Let Me Go
Three stars
Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield
Directed by Mark Romanek
Rated R
Beyond the Weekly
Never Let Me Go
IMDb: Never Let Me Go
Rotten Tomatoes: Never Let Me Go

It’s hard to imagine a Merchant Ivory-style production with the same concept as a Michael Bay movie, but that’s essentially what you get with Never Let Me Go, an intriguing and mostly successful combination of science fiction and chamber drama. Like Bay’s bombastic action epic The Island, Never Let Me Go is about a second class of citizens who are cloned and raised solely to provide donor organs for regular people in poor health. But instead of Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson on the run from explosions and gunfire, Never Let Me Go (based on a 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) has Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield navigating the perils of a romantic triangle. It uses the trappings of sci-fi to amplify the emotions associated with love and loss, since these characters generally can’t expect to live past 30. While anyone interested in the complex details of alternate history will be disappointed, the emotional moments ring true, and they’re what the movie’s really about.

Growing up in a group home that resembles a proper English boarding school, Kathy (Mulligan) falls for Tommy (Garfield), but her best friend Ruth (Knightley) scoops him up instead. The film captures the trio as preteens (played by different actors) in 1978, as young adults in 1985 and near the end of their short lives in 1994, giving the sweep of a lifelong love story to a period of less than 20 years. At times the hushed tone and deliberate pacing feels too subdued, but director Mark Romanek is able to find something profound in this fantastical concept, and Mulligan is excellent as a woman who spends nearly half her life watching her friends and peers die slowly. It’s the way that people deal with such extraordinary circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves, that makes Never Let Me Go quietly rewarding.


Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

Get more Josh Bell

Previous Discussion:

  • This year’s event features another packed lineup of short films, with more than 120 selections spread over 20-plus thematic programs and four days.

  • The three-day event—which will showcase more than 50 short films, along with one feature—kicks off with a free night of films at Backstage Bar and ...

  • Returning to the Palms, LVFF 2018 offers talked-about indie films shorts programs, animation, student films, parties and more.

  • Get More Film Stories
Top of Story