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Film Title

Never Let Me Go


Mark Romanek


  • Carey Mulligan as Kathy H
  • Andrew Garfield as Tommy D
  • Keira Knightley as Ruth C
  • Sally Hawkins as Miss Lucy
  • Charlotte Rampling as Miss Emily
  • Isobel Meikle-Small as Young Kathy
  • Ella Purnell as Young Ruth
  • Charlie Rowe as Young Tommy

Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go is a haunting evocation on the subject of mortality. Capturing the mournful undercurrents of the story and featuring three impressive central performances, Mark Romanek directs this poignant story of the human soul.

Never Let Me Go Film CastTo the outside world, Hailsham looks like any other boarding school. Yet it is far from it. In the opening frames of the movie, the audience sees things that seem somewhat different to the expectations of an English boarding school. The students scan their wrists on sensors around the school and take unnamed tablets every morning. For Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, this is the way they have been brought up, yet there is the lingering feeling that something isn’t quite right about the schools ethos. Narrated by Kathy, we witness the three central characters growing up in this peculiar environment in which they are forbidden to pass the boundary separating the school from the outside world. This isolating existence adds to the enigmas surrounding the trio. When they learn their destiny from their new teacher Miss Lucy, which I won’t divulge for fear of spoiling it, it changes everything about them. Years later, the characters are grown up and have left Hailsham for somewhere else. Yet there is still the searching for answers regarding their fate that plagues quiet Kathy, awkward Tommy and jealous Ruth. Kathy is in love with Tommy but as she doesn’t want to upset the balance of friendship stays quiet as he courts Ruth. The jealousy and tenuous link at many times almost breaks as they navigate their way through realisation, grief and love. For the trio, a normal life is not an option and various questions are posed throughout Never Let Me Go surrounding the human soul and the nature of existence. Poignant, poetic and profound, Never Let Me Go asks many questions of us an audience and all we can do is witness the sadness, emotions and strange beauty of the film that will haunt almost anyone who sees it.

Alex Garland’s screenplay sensitively depicts the realisation of events and the effect it has on the close friendship shared between these characters with no knowledge of the outside world. By parts science fiction and drama with a romance at the heart, Never Let Me Go manages to balance these with stunning and powerful results. Mark Romanek’s subtle direction frames the story in melancholy and evocative colours which allows the story to reveal certain surprising points with a quiet unpredictability and intelligence. Rachel Portman contributes a stunning score of love, anguish and closeness that really lends the film a massive emotional impact as these characters decipher their shocking destiny and are faced with difficult decisions.

What really gives Never Let Me Go an emotional heart is the three central performances of Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley. Carey Mulligan is the most effective in her portrayal of Kathy, who narrates the story. Some may say the role seems passive, when actually it is filled with quiet, determined emotion and a certain weariness that Mulligan excellent embodies with deep pathos and skill. It is a role filled with passion, intelligence and power that Carey Mulligan delivers with deep emotional weight. Andrew Garfield contributes a wide-eyed naive quality to Tommy as he journeys through a discovery for the truth whilst dealing with his feelings for both Kathy and Ruth. Garfield is very subtle but hugely impressive in this role, and when he releases his emotion later on in the film it is such a harrowing moment. Rounding out the troika is Keira Knightley’s performance as Ruth, whose jealousy burns as she sees how Kathy clearly adores her boyfriend. But Knightley intelligently doesn’t make Ruth a one-dimensional character, she shows us the caring side that want to hold on to her friends and the aggressive side that surfaces when provoked.  All of the actors portraying the characters as children are exceptional as they have an uncanny resemblance to their older characters and possess deep emotions for people so young. Sally Hawkins has a brief but highly emotional role as the teacher who informs the students of their destiny and Charlotte Rampling is suitably imperious and enigmatic as the headmistress of Hailsham.

Crafted with poignancy and full of deep, far-reaching themes, Never Let Me Go is a haunting film that will live long in the memory.