MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

A Few Words on Never Let Me Go

SPOILER WARNING: Mild spoilers for Never Let Me Go, so if you don’t already know generally what it’s about and don’t want to, move along.

It’s unfortunate to see Never Let Me Go sliding off the radar. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful film that deals with some intriguing moral questions — questions that are particularly relevant now, with things like stem cell trials for spinal cord injuries taking place. Whichever side of the debate over stem cell research you happen to fall on, Kazuo Ishiguro‘s somewhat ambiguous exploration of the morality of cloning is thoughtful, compelling, and well-adapted by Alex Garland.

It’s not very often that I like a film adaptation more after reading the source material, but I felt after reading Never Let Me Go that Garland did a reallly excellent job of more or less capturing Ishiguro’s rather distant emotional tone. One of the most interesting aspects of this book (and the movie) is the emotional distance and lack of judgment Ishiguro brings to the story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy.

The film, I feel, weighs a little more toward being negatively judgmental than the book, in part because it explores less the ways in which Kathy,Tommy and Ruth were lucky (so to speak) to have been given an idyllic childhood and well-rounded educations at Hailsham boarding school before being directed down the path for which they created. There’s more implication in the book about a greater societal debate going on from which the Tommy, Ruth, Kathy and the rest of the Hailsham students have been largely shielded, and one of the strengths of the novel, I think, is that Ishiguro leaves so much of that implied and to the imagination of the reader.

It’s easy to watch Never Let Me Go and tell yourself that the world it imagines could never happen, but then it’s hard to imagine that the horrors of the Holocaust ever happened too, isn’t it? And when we’re dealing with rapid advances in medical research, when successful cloning experiments with animals have happened, when stem cell research is marching onward, when it seems that people are considering more and more whether things CAN be done and less and less whether they SHOULD be … a film (and a book) like Never Let Me Go is both relevant and compelling.

I’m not sure why it hasn’t performed better at the box office; perhaps people have been turned off by learning what the subject matter is, or by reviews calling it dour and depressing, or maybe they just don’t want to think too hard about the questions it raises. I dunno … I liked the look of the film, the tone of it, the performances, particularly by Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan. The only thing I really took issue with was the voiceover at the end, which I felt was unnecessary and assumed the audience wasn’t smart enough to think enough to ask those questions of themselves after seeing everything unfold.

Anyhow, Never Let Me Go is a good adaptation of a great book and well worth watching. I found it exponentially better than the 2008 adaptation of Revolutionary Road, which I pretty much hated. If you’ve not read the book, I recommened reading the book as well because Ishiguro’s writing is worth it, but see the film in a theater if you can, the better to appreciate the sumptuous cinematography. Never Let Me Go is still playing here in Seattle and other cities, so check it out while you can.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon