Never Let Me Go (2010)

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Released 2-Aug-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation-Live action and music from score.
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 99:28 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mark Romanek
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Carey Mulligan
Andrew Garfield
Keira Knightly
Charlie Rowe
Ella Purnell
Charlotte Rampling
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Rachel Portman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Spanish
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Only main title prior to action.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Mark Romanek has only directed two feature films but he has become a legend in the music video industry. In 2002 he helmed One Hour Photo, which showcased Robin Williams in possibly his best performance to date. Romanek was originally set to direct The Wolfman, but withdrew due to a budget dispute. We now have his second feature, Never Let Me Go, which will certainly resonate in many hearts and minds, particularly of those who have embraced the movie's source.

     The screenplay from Alex Garland (Sunshine) is based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, writer of The Remains of the Day. Never Let Me Go was named by Time Magazine the best novel of 2005. After a spare main title, three simple sentences unfold one by one on the screen:

    The breakthrough in medical science came in 1952.

    Doctors could now cure the incurable.

    By 1967, life expectancy passed 100 years.

     By the end of the third sentence we are aware that we are in a world of medical science fiction. But unlike most science fiction, this story takes place in the past. Our narrator, Kathy H., takes us back to the 1978 English countryside and the austere Hailsham Boarding School. We meet three children. Kathy is bright, reserved and soulful while Ruth is extroverted and opinionated, with her assured veneer covering basic insecurity. Tommy is a sensitive, bullied introvert who finds his soul mate in Kathy, while he also attracts the competitive interest of Ruth. Although the word "clone" is never uttered throughout the film, Hailsham is an establishment set up to "educate" children who have been scientifically bred from "originals" to ultimately have their organs harvested for medical purposes. Most "complete" with their third donation, although some do have a longer harvesting life. With this world established we follow the emotional involvements of Tommy and the two girls as they move through and beyond the school. Ruth and Tommy begin their organ donations, while Kathy becomes a "Carer" for those undergoing the surgery. The ultimate reunion of the three and their outcomes provide emotional cinema that will stay with you long past the end titles.

     Romanek has crafted a sombre and pensive film. Everything contributes to the tone and mood from the settings, the measured widescreen camerawork from Adam Kimmel (Capote), with the delicately subtle colours, and the hauntingly lovely symphonic score from Rachel Portman (Grey Gardens). The first half hour contains remarkable performances from three child actors, Isobel Meikle-Small as Kathy, Ella Purnell as Ruth and Charlie Rowe as Tommy. The young adult performances are beyond splendid, with Carey Mulligan (An Education) firmly establishing herself as one of the finest young actresses on the screen. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) is achingly sensitive - rather reminiscent of the young Tony Perkins. The scene where his pain finally erupts in a screaming rage is unforgettable. As Ruth Keira Knightly ( Pride and Prejudice) is also excellent, with her usual mannerisms reined in to produce a sensitive performance. Her final scenes are achingly poignant.

     I must confess to one major problem with this film. I have not read the book, and I do not subscribe to the "Oh, but if you read the book ..." argument. Setting the story in the past creates a believability problem in the audience's, or at least in my, acceptance of this created world. There are too many unanswered questions regarding the cloning, the education, the government system and so on. If it was set in the future, then we are ready to accept unexplained givens - it's the future, after all. But being the past, our past, it is unavoidable, for me at least, to have questions about the distorted past reality presented to us. This became a barrier to my total involvement with the fates of these three young protagonists. But maybe that's just me.

     Never Let Me Go is a painful, thoughtful film, with Kathy's final contemplation lingering through and beyond the end credits. She sees a dilemma common to both the donors and the recipients.

     "We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've been through, or feel we've had enough time."

     In reviewing this film I find myself more moved than I was initially. I will have to watch this extraordinarily beautiful film again, and soon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Fox have done proud by this fine film with the quality of the DVD release. The image is presented at the ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The image is superb with a sharp, clear image and excellent detail. Shadow detail is outstanding, with luminous blacks and fine detail in the numerous darker scenes, without ant low level noise. The colour is subdued, but presents the full spectrum beautifully, with green countryside and seaside scenes that are of superb artistic quality. This is a gorgeous looking film, with beautifully composed widescreen images lingering on the screen and in our minds. Skin tones could not be better, natural and sensitive. No MPEG artefacts were seen in this transfer that does full justice to the content of the film.

     This is a dual layer disc with the change occurring mid-scene at 68:54, with a comparatively lengthy freeze of the image.

     Subtitles are provided in English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Castilian / Spanish and Swedish. The titles for the hearing impaired were sampled and found to be excellent.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are two audio streams, English and Spanish, both Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.

     As I am continually finding, it is frequently the "small" films which have the more interesting use of sound. Dialogue is totally clear with no sync problems, and although the film is basically dialogue centred, there is extensive use of the complete sound field. There is direction across the front, even with some dialogue, and the surrounds are used extensively for environmental and off-screen sounds. The lovely music by Rachel Portman is also distributed fully around the field. The subwoofer does not have the opportunity for bone shaking effects, but is used to add depth and impact to the drama and the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     So frequently the films that you sincerely would like to research a little are bereft of extras. That is once again the case here.

Main Menu

     The menu screen presents a montage of live-action scenes from the film, with one of the Rachel Portman’s lovely themes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 DVD release contains the following extras :

     There is also a Zone A Blu-ray release which has the same content.

Summary

     Overshadowed by more colourful competition, this haunting science fiction drama should have been one of last year's award contenders. Director Mark Romanek has given us a beautifully crafted film with three stunning performances from its young stars. This is a troubling film which lingers in the mind. Unfortunately there are no extras on the local release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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