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Cinebloke Gets An Early Look At Mark Romanek's NEVER LET ME GO!!

Merrick here...
Cinebloke sent in this look from a very early screening of NEVER LET ME GO. This one's from director Mark Romanek (ONE HOUR PHOTO) and based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro (available HERE). The script's by Alex Garland (SUNSHINE, 28 DAYS LATER, the Neill Blomkamp HALO movie that never got made). To the best of my knowledge, no final release date has been set for this film - so be aware than many changes could be made to the movie between the version seen by Cinebloke and the final release version. BEWARE MAJOR SPOILERS!
Here's Cinebloke:
Sherman Oaks, CA. Arclight. Test Screening of Mark Romanek's new film, the screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel "Never Let Me Go." As someone who has always enjoyed Romanek's work I was very much looking forward to his latest film, not to mention it's been seven years since "One Hour Photo." The film was also adapted for the screen by Alex Garland (a fine novelist in his own right) and produced by Andrew Macdonald (DNA Films). Going in, I only knew that the novel dealt with clones. For some reason clones and Romanek's vision conjured up some whacked version of "I-Robot" (maybe it's from seeing Romanek's Michael Jackson "Scream" video as of late). Fortunately "Never Let Me Go" is more in the vein of Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" meets a Merchant/Ivory film with romantic hints of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." Garland has adapted Ishiguro's story into a very fine dramatic, disturbing, sci-fi, tragic-love story while Romanek's direction cements those elements with a very mature eye. I wasn't sure what I thought about this film while I was watching it. Didn't exactly love it and sure as hell didn't hate it. However, now that I've had some time to have it simmer around in my head for a bit, my feeling for "Never Let Me Go" leans heavily to very enthusiastic. It's nice to see a filmmaker mature in front of your very eyes and Romanek, as well as Garland, has certainly made gains (like any good, growing artist does). The story? It's a bit difficult to explain but with the help of Wikipedia I've cobbled this together to help make it clear: It begins with Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan) a young woman of 31, focusing at first on her childhood at an unusual boarding school and eventually her adult life. The story takes place in a dystopian Britain, in which human beings are cloned to provide donor organs for transplants. Kathy and her classmates have been created to be donors, though the adult Kathy is temporarily working as a "carer," someone who supports and comforts donors as they are made to give up their organs and, eventually, submit to death. The first half of the film is set at Hailsham, a boarding school where the children are brought up and educated. The teachers there mysteriously encourage the students to produce various forms of art. The best works are chosen by the headmistress (the great Charlotte Rampling) and are said to be collected in a gallery. Meanwhile, a new teacher (Sally Hawkins) has come to Hailsham and taken over Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth's class. As we see the children living and going to school at Halisham something on-the-whole seems just slightly off about the place. In one scene particular, while playing a game one of the kids hits a ball over the Hailsham gates and no one retrieves it, shortly thereafter the new teacher asks why; the children tell her that kids who have gone over the gates have been found in the woods beyond Hailsham with their hands and feet cut off. In the meantime, Kathy becomes friends with Tommy and Ruth. Tommy is an isolated boy who has difficulty in relating to others and is often the target of bullies, while Ruth is an extrovert with strong opinions. In what's possibly the most chilling scene of the film, the children are confronted by their new teacher who has seemingly been overcome and can no longer allow them to go on living a lie and must inform the children of their true lot in life, the stated above. In this scene, the non-reaction of the children is eerie and the scene's nicely punctuated with a piece of paper being blown off the teachers desk and Tommy picking it up as if it's nothing or second-nature, the same reaction he has to learning his abrupt fate. As time passes and the children grow, a relationship between Kathy and Tommy begins to develop. In one of the best scenes of the film Tommy buys a cassette at a type of school swap meet and gives it to Kathy. In the next scene we see Kathy listening to the song "Never Let Me Go" on the tape. It's a nice marriage of song, visual, and acting by the young Izzy Meikle-Small , as we see love taking flight. Yet, jealousy overcomes the pretty Ruth and she sways Tommy from Kathy. Entering into their late teens, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy (now, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield) have finished their schooling and move to the "Cottages", residential complexes where they start to have contacts with the external world and they are relatively free to do what they want. A more sexual relationship develops between Ruth and Tommy, while Kathy lives amongst them. While at the Cottages, Ruth learns her original lives in the nearby town. The three travel into town to find the original only to be letdown when they find out this person is only someone who resembles Ruth. With their hopes fractured, the trio splits up and all go their separate ways. As Kathy grows older she becomes a carer and runs back into Ruth, who at this time has given 2 donations. Kathy cares for Ruth and then, after Ruth "completes" (Ishiguro's evocative euphemism for death), Kathy takes care of Tommy. Before her death, Ruth expresses regret over coming between Kathy and Tommy, and urges them to pursue a relationship with one another, and to seek to defer their donations based on their love. Encouraged by Ruth's last wishes, Kathy and Tommy visit a teacher from Hailsham, where they also meet their old headmistress (Rampling) again. During this visit, they learn why artistic production had always been emphasized at Hailsham. They also learn that deferring their donations, a possibility rumoured among clones for many years, is impossible. The clones learn that Hailsham in general was an experiment, an effort to improve the conditions for clones and perhaps alter the attitudes of society, which prefers to view the clones merely as non-human sources of organs. As Kathy loses Tommy, she faces her own inevitable fate as a donor and her eventual "completion." All the performances (from the young actors to the older actors) in the film are well rounded and Carey Mulligan as Kathy has a face that you can sink into and when the tragic love story comes to a head, you feel each and every tear that Kathy sheds. She deservedly earns the attention that is currently surrounding her career. Keira Knightley does a fine job as Ruth in a supporting part that gives her moments to flex her acting chops while integrating her beauty into the role. Andrew Garfield (a newcomer to stateside eyes, although great in the UK indie "Boy-A") gives Tommy an understated depth only to have it explode when he learns that deferring the donations is impossible. The film's settings (all of which Romanek and the DP use fittingly) especially the "Cottages" is sure to remind viewers of "Children of Men" as well as some of the technology weaved into a not-too-distant bleak tomorrow. Whereas the inevitable doomed love story between Kathy and Tommy echoes the relationship shared between Deckard and Rachael in "Blade Runner." On first viewing the film, I wasn't sure about the tone and pace but upon thinking about it more and seeing how the film plays out, the slow intentions seem to pay off and will seemingly work even better on a second viewing -- which I think the whole film will also play better during. Also of note, it was announced the music was a temp score, but I wouldn't mind if they kept some essence of it as it seem to fit fine. It will be interesting to see how an audience will react to this film. To be honest, I haven't felt like I did walking out of the theater since seeing P.T. Anderson's "There Will Be Blood." I can't help but think it will polarize audiences; there will be those who love it and those who will absolutely despise it. It's a film that doesn't spell everything out and asks the audience to listen and be patient for what ends up being a story that will make you question your own fate. Hat's off to Romanek and company for making a subtle, disturbing, tragic, and beautiful film. (If you use this please refer to me as Cinebloke)

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