Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

Since I just finished writing my thoughts on the book, I think I will continue now by giving my thoughts on the movie adaptation. In many ways it was a very good movie, but it did not live up to my expectations.

It might have a lot to do with the fact that I saw the movie just an hour after finishing the book, but my biggest problem with the movie was that it didn’t evoke nearly as many reactions and emotions in me. I suppose I do get more emotionally invested in literature than I do in movies, and therefore must cut the film some slack. What surprised me about my reaction the most was that while my usual book-to-movie complaint is that too many scenes were cut from the source material, I didn’t think that was the trouble this time. More than anything my issue was that there was a much greater focus on the love aspect of the story, with a greater emphasis on Tommy and Kathy’s connection and the portrayal of Ruth as an antagonist.

I understand the choice to focus on this, because I think it’s hard to translate all the aspects of their relationship and the depth of the bonds between the three children we meet in the book without narrating the entire film from Kathy’s perspective. More than anything, this change makes the story a lot more predictable and in a way puts Ruth in a worse light than she deserves.

Although I did not think the cuts were detrimental to my enjoyment, there were some scenes I missed from the story. They axed a lot of Kathy’s conversations with both Ruth and Tommy, as well as one of the defining fights they had over the paintings. It was also a shame how they left out most of the happy moments between the three of them, meaning that the movie focused a lot more on how their lives were affected negatively by their predetermined future. However, the most disappointing cut was the scene where Madame walks in when Kathy is listening to her music, and her subsequent explanation for why she reacted by starting to cry. That was so defining for what the main point of the story is that it should have been used. It also annoyed me that Kathy’s moment instead was turned into a catalyst for Ruth’s intention to keep Tommy and Kathy apart.

Despite being pleased with the movie overall, I have mixed opinions about the acting. I think Carey Mulligan is a fantastic actress and I have no complaints about her as Kathy. I think she captured Kathy’s goodness perfectly, and that she handled her relationships with the other characters very truthfully. I was also very pleased with Andrew Garfield as Tommy. I really enjoyed him in the Social Network, and thought it was fun to see him in such a different role. He captured Tommy’s good natured personality and insecurity, playing him as both awkward and strong at the same time. I think he had better chemistry with Carey than with Keira, but that works well for what the movie wanted to emphasize. Some of my favourite moments in the movie were when Tommy and Kathy talk in the barn and when Tommy has his rage attack towards the end, both of which Andrew Garfield handled very well.

My biggest problem was with Keira Knightly as Ruth. Much to my surprise, because at the time when I decided to read the book I only had any knowledge of her previous work (I watched both the Social Network and Doctor Who after buying the book), and so was mostly interested because she was attached to the project. However, I think her performance was the weakest. She had her moments, most notably when she had her outburst at the beach after her possible turned out to be wrong, as well as her conversation when she asks for forgiveness at the end. Despite those, I never really felt the truthfulness of her character and preferred the actress who played the younger version of Ruth.

Lastly I want to mention that the movie looks beautiful. I love the English landscape, so it goes without saying that I enjoyed the visuals, but the overall cinematography was really good throughout.

In conclusion I would say it was a good movie that probably is better if you haven’t read the book. It’s not bad at all, just different. If for nothing else it’s worth watching for Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield’s performances.

 

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