Never Let Me Go is a 2010 British dystopian drama film based on the 2005 novel of the same name written by Kazuo Ishiguro. The movie was directed by Mark Romanek from a screenplay written by Alex Garland. It stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. Never Let Me Go centers on Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, played respectively by Mulligan, Knightley and Garfield, who become entangled in a love triangle and are scientific specimens, created in a laboratory and raised in order to provide their organs to severely ill patients. Principal photography began in April 2009, lasting a few weeks, and filmed at various locations, including Andrew Melville Hall. Made on a $15 million budget, Never Let Me Go was produced by DNA Films and Film4.
Prior to the book's publication, Garland had approached the movie's producers, Andrew Macdonald and Andrew Reich, about a possible movie, and wrote the film a ninety-six page script. While initially having trouble finding an actress to play Kathy, Mulligan was cast in the role after Peter Rice, who is the head of the company financing the film, recommended her while watching her performance in An Education. A fan of the book, Mulligan ecstatically accepted the role, having hoped to play that specific character if a film adaptation were to ever be made of the book, years before. The movie's message and themes were the factors that attracted Garfield to become a part of the film.
Never Let Me Go premiered at the 37th annual Telluride Film Festival in September 2010, where the audience positively responded to its message. The movie has since been screened at a number of festivals, including the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival as well as opening the 54th London Film Festival. It was distributed theatrically by Fox Searchlight Pictures in the United States on 15 September 2010, where it was given a limited release. Other release dates for the movie include a 14 January 2011, date for the United Kingdom. In the US, playing at four theatres, Never Let Me Go grossed over $111,000 in its opening weekend. As the number of theaters it played at began to expand, it continued to make more money each week, going to earn over $800,000 in total in the United States. Never Let Me Go was met with mixed reviews from film critics, with most reviewers generally praising the cast's overall performances.
Kathy (Mulligan), Tommy (Garfield) and Ruth (Knightley) live in a world and a time that feel familiar to us, but is not quite like anything we know. They spend their childhood at Hailsham, a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. When they leave the shelter of the school and the terrible truth of their fate is revealed to them, they must also confront their deep feelings of love, jealousy and betrayal that threaten to pull them apart.
The film is narrated by 28-year-old Kathy H. as she reminisces about her childhood at Hailsham, as well as her adult life after leaving the school. 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. As in Ishiguro’s other works, the truth of the matter is made clear only gradually, via veiled but suggestive language and situations.
The film is divided into multiple parts, chronicling phases in the lives of its main characters.
In July 2010, Never Let Me Go was screened to film critics, who gave it generally positive reviews, with The Daily Telegraph calling the movie's three leads "brilliant". Never Let Me Go premiered at the 37th annual Telluride Film Festival (TFF), which was presented by the National Film Preserve and began on 3 September 2010, running through Labor Day in a remote Colorado town. The Hollywood Reporter observed that the audience "seemed to respond positively to the film's look at what makes us human and what defines a soul." The film was also a part of the 35th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) line-up during September 2010 and was screened along with 300 other films. According to Deadline Hollywood, Never Let Me Go was originally expected to have its world premiere at the 2010 Venice Film Festival in September, but Fox replaced it with Black Swan, having favored the TIFF rather than Venice, but eventually settled on the Telluride Film Festival.
Never Let Me Go was scheduled for a limited release for select cities in the United States on 1 October 2010, but the date was later moved up to 15 September. The movie will be released in the United Kingdom on 14 January 2011, and on 9 February 2011 it will be released in France. Never Let Me Go was given an R rating for "some sexuality and nudity" by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). As a forum of promotion for the film after its release in September, Mulligan made guest appearances to introduce Never Let Me Go at movie theatre screenings, including at the Landmark Theatres and AMC Loews Lincoln Square. Upon the film's release at the TFF, a writer for the Los Angeles Times called the movie an "Oscar wild card", believing that it's reviews are "likely to be split between those who consider the film a bleak masterpiece and others who find it straining so mightily for aesthetic perfection that it fails to provide a gripping narrative." The Globe and Mail called Never Let Me Go one of 2010's "big noise" films. In the United States, Never Let Me Go will be released on DVD on February 1, 2011.
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