Magazine article The Spectator

Still Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Still Life

Article excerpt

Never Let Me Go 12A, Nationwide

I didn't go and see the Coen brothers' remake of True Grit this week because I couldn't get excited about it and don't like westerns anyhow. I don't think women do, generally. They are too masculine; they are like those competitions to see who can urinate farthest up a wall, but with spurs, guns, a broken lawman who rallies honourably at the end, and tumbleweed rolling by. It's just not our thing.

Women could never, for example, have made High Noon. Instead, we would have made High Noon-ish, with the added rider:

'Just get here when you can, love, and if we don't get round to vengeance today maybe we can do it tomorrow, at High Ten-ish.

Does this work for you?' So, for this reason, I opted for the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go, and . . . ? My dears, how one longed for some tumbleweed to roll by. It would have seemed quite thrilling.

Never Let Me Go is, first and foremost, as well as second and second most, a spectacularly inert film; so inert that even I, who favours inertness, wanted to go at it with a stick in the hope of beating it into some kind of life. Perhaps such passive solemnity is true to the book, but on screen, along with the sad tinkling piano and the sad violins that just won't quit, the overall effect is so enervating that you simply don't feel a damned thing. It was the same with, for example, Jane Campion's Bright Star. It did all the right things in all the right places, but was so painterly and restrained and in such good taste it could not draw you in emotionally.

Indeed, when Keats began to cough, instead of feeling moved or distressed, you simply thought, 'Oh, good. Not long to go now.' And that is just what this is like.

This is a sci-fi fable although not in the usual futuristic sense. It's set in the England of today, but it is an alternative England, always slightly off-kilter somehow. People use the words 'originals' and 'donors' and 'completions' ominously. Biomedical tinkering appears to be going on at the edges. As directed by Mark Romanek, the atmosphere is always quietly disturbing.

The story begins in the 1990s with our narrator, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), describing herself as a 'carer' and reminiscing about her childhood while watching a man, Tommy (Andrew Garfield), being prepared for an operation. …

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