It's hard not to lose your heart a little to Never Let Me Go at the start. Carey Mulligan, making good on that An Education promise, stares through you with big caring soulful eyes. She even confirms that look with dialogue about being a "carer". Andrew Garfield stares back, through glass, with an uncomplicated smile on his face. He's prone on an operating table and obviously in need of her caring. Never Let Me Go uses a definitive plea as title. Not to be to cruel when faced with so much neediness but can we do some haggling first? May we keep parts of you and discard the rest? Never Let This Piece of Me Go? Consider it a deal.
I'd personally like to keep the actors. I've even written up a "Best in Show" column on Andrew Garfield for Tribeca Film. The set decoration has its moments, too. I'll even keep the screenplay so long as I can jettison at least a third of Cathy H's redundant narrated bits and a truly atrocious final speech which ruins the heartbreak of the scene preceding it. You know the type of final speech I'm talking about "Let me spell out the theme for you in case you were two hours late to the movie or took a really long bathroom break." The narration is actually a bit baffling for a film that does, in fact, trust you to fill in some of the blanks. If you're trusting the audience to infer meaning on several occasions, haven't you already decided your audience is a smart one?
More than any film this year, I want to fuss with everything. The first donation needs to be Rachel Portman's score. Give that away immediately. One can half imagine the creative meetings "This is the climax of the film. Make it important." ...only they forgot to mention which scene. The score even treats transitional bits like cars pulling up to buildings as perfect moments to remind you that this is an ominous dystopian tale that is Breaking Your Heart. For all of the inherent power in Never Let Me Go's compelling premise, clever images and nuanced performances -- that seems to be the exhausting directorial mantra for the entire creative team: 'this is the climax, make it important!' But not every scene can be a climax - just as with life, they only happen once. C+
"Best in Show" Andrew Garfield
A Second Look at An Education