I first heard about Never Let Me Go not as the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, but as a film starring three of my favourite actors.
The description of the film was vague, but having seen Carey’s previous performances, I made plans to catch the film when it came into theatres. A friend gave me the book for my birthday and I spent a week immersed in Kathy H.’s world. (My review for the book can be found here.) By the time I finished it, my determination to see the film had only been further cemented.
In recent years, book-to-film adaptations have increased in number. The Harry Potter films are partly to blame–what author wouldn’t want to see his or her novel immortalized on film and characters as living, breathing people? Often, the process is bogged down by poor screenwriting, bad casting and/or disinterest in the subject matter. Many books are optioned by film studios, but never see the lights of a red carpet.
I’ve come to trust what some would call “indie” filmmakers more than Hollywood when it comes to these adaptations. It’s true that Hollywood directors and producers have the money and equipment to create fantasy worlds like audiences have never seen before. Hogwarts is an excellent example of that. But it takes more than CGI and harnesses to capture the themes of a novel. Everyone involved in the film needs to understand that before a producer signed a contract with the author, the story came first. It was alive in the minds of readers first, whether they number ten or ten million. Their respect will also need to be earned if the film’s to be a true success.
What I appreciated most about the adaptation of Never Let Me Go was the care that went into the film. The director seemed to understand the gravity of the story’s themes and unfolded them accordingly, as tentatively as the sunset Kathy H. watches at the end of the film. He also understood the things that weren’t said by the characters and gave Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley room to explore their characters. The tiniest forehead wrinkle on Andrew’s face pulses with yearning and confusion; Carey is a master of restraint. Keira Knightley is spot-on in her portrayal of a girl who just wants to be loved.
Films like Never Let Me Go give me hope that the stories that have found life inside my head can be seen through loving eyes. It takes work and a lot of pain, but true admiration for any artistic piece is possible, and only then can it find peace in completion.