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Massawyrm says NEVER LET ME GO is the best film he's seen all year!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. The very best science fiction is often just that: science fiction. More often than not, in this day and age, we associate the term more with horror movies and space opera than we do anything else, so much so that we often have to qualify it when it arrives in its purest, most downplayed form. While STAR TREK, STAR WARS and DISTRICT 9 are all in fact science fiction, none of them quite resemble the science so much as they resemble the fiction. And thus only the best among them ever really get to the heart of what science fiction does best – expose the human condition as we observe people placed into situations with moral quandaries we’ve never before considered, allowing us to then apply the revealed morality to our own lives and choices. NEVER LET ME GO is just such a story. One of the very many wonderful things about NEVER LET ME GO is just how subdued a science fiction film it is. In fact, for the first third of the film, you would hardly even think it was a science fiction film at all. Set in an alternate history in which the world made incredible medical breakthroughs in place of nuclear ones in the years after WWII, we have found a way to extend life expectancy beyond 100 years and deal with most terminal ailments. The downside is that the techniques involve growing cloned humans, raising them in controlled environments (boarding schools) and waiting for them to ripen into adulthood when they begin giving up their organs one at a time. The film is set in a very special boarding school in which something else is going on, something that may or may not affect the lives of three young friends – two young girls and a boy. It unfolds in very much the same manner as any other classic boarding school story. Youthful naivety, growing pains and young love are all explored within the confines of a rigidly regimented school, but when someone spoils the big secret, the school takes on an almost sinister turn as we watch the children grow into adulthood trying to accept their place in the world. It is a very human story that wants to ask the classic questions of what it is that makes us human and how far are we willing to go as a species to ensure long life for masses at the expense of a few. And it cuts so close to the bone that you can’t help but see just how these ideas play into the society we have now. Mark Romanek has crafted a masterpiece, playing with themes that writers and directors have addressed since the time of Huxley, but is so simple and elegant in execution that it accomplishes everything it is aiming for without using a single piece of future tech. Based upon the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (REMAINS OF THE DAY), the film is incredibly human, following a sweeping love story that ranges from pre-pubescent innocence to the last breaths of their lives. If you’re looking for an adventure story about clones that make a break for it, try Michael Bay’s version THE ISLAND or Robert Fiveson’s PARTS: THE CLONUS HORROR. This isn’t that movie. This is a heartbreaking, tear jerking drama about the ones who stick around, trying their best to fulfill their role in society. The film is split into three time periods, each serving as a different act of the film. The first third of the film revolves entirely around the childhood and offers the first hints of blossoming romance. The second act is the late teen years of the three leads, where we first meet the principle actors for which the roles will be most known for: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. Finally, the third act is the three characters as adults, wrestling with everything that befell them during their years together. Each act is shot through a different lens, given a different visual clarity to the periods. The earlier it is (further back for the narrator) the softer and hazier it is, while the current era is crisp - each detail sharp. It is little flourishes like this that make this such a lush and brilliantly executed film. NEVER LET ME GO is flawless, a perfect science fiction sendup, telling one of the best - and certainly the most profound - versions of this story ever set to screen. Romanek always holds back, refusing to try and play up either the time periods the film is set in or the type of technology that might exist alongside these radical medical breakthroughs. This isn’t about that. He never winks at the camera or has fun with what’s going on; he is forever serious, adding a level of pathos to every shot that showcases just how dreary and unlucky the lives of these people are. The Sword of Damocles is always over their head, and yet they try desperately to live despite that fact, always trying to come to grips with their fate, while simultaneously trying to stave it off just a little bit longer. But when all is said and done, the film isn’t just about the ethics of the scenario; it is about mortality. Our own mortality. It is a film about the death we all have looming off in the distance and how we as individuals come to grips with it. The science fiction of it is just the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. This is perfect science fiction; this is a perfect film. As it stands, it is the very best film I’ve seen all year. It tore me up and broke me down, exposing the raw, tender humanity beneath the surface of an issue that many may have thought done to death. It is the best story of its kind ever told; bitter, cold and merciless to three characters you can’t help but fall in love with. NEVER LET ME GO has Oscar-bait written all over it. Expect a Best Picture nod, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actress for either (or both) Knightley and Mulligan (or supporting for either, depending on how the studio plays it.) Garfield might also be up for Best Actor himself. All three of the leads are stupendous, delivering beautiful, touching, broken performances that stretch years and each cover a wide range of emotions. If there is a better movie than this that comes out this year, we will be truly blessed. Do not miss this film.
Until next time friends, Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:43 a.m. CST


    by stylin0619

    Forgive me, I've always wanted to do that.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Nice review

    by CobraKai

    The dojo may see this one

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:43 a.m. CST

    Looking forward to it Massa

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

    great book, and hearing great things about this

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:50 a.m. CST

    So it's a THE ISLAND reboot?

    by ricarleite2

    I don't know, Massa... The Island/Clones for organ harvest plot... Andrew Garfield... And you're saying this tops Inception and Toy Story 3? Massa, your credibility's on the wall for this one. If you're wrong, I'll never believe you again, and AICN will have NO one to back it up.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Let Me In , The Social Network, The Town and this

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

    Looks like a whole lot of good movies are coming out, big problem for me, no release date yet for them in Hong Kong or Japan, yet again. Hating this 1970s model for movie distribution

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Massa what would be your top 5 for the year so far ?

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:55 a.m. CST

    The 6th Day had better science...

    by zinc_chameleon

    And that stuff is eight years out of date. We solved Arnold's problem with Cabbage Looper Moth guts (really!). Sorry, Massa, but I teach this stuff. We don't need to grow complete humans to harvest their organs, any more than we need to hunt whales for their oil. I can understand that this is an alternate reality, but in *our* reality, *our* is far past this. Talkback if you want more subtle (or boring) scientific details.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:58 a.m. CST

    I would say Star Wars is Sci Fi/Fantasy

    by durhay

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Garfield can't win

    by yodalovesyou

    He's not even human.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Why was released in the US before UK?????

    by Drsambeckett1984

    A British cast, set in Britain, written by a Brit, but not out here until January?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:03 a.m. CST

    61% at Rotten Tomatoes

    by aceattorney

    What gives?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:04 a.m. CST

    STAR WARS is Science Fiction?

    by The StarWolf

    Not according to George Lucas who has publicly denied it. He calls is 'space opera/science fantasy'.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:06 a.m. CST

    green lantern bady is...

    by Nemesis Enforcer


  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:06 a.m. CST

    You rewrite this entire review with...

    by The_Guy_Who_Invented_Coca_Cola

    ..."SKYCRAWLERS" replacing the title.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:08 a.m. CST

    Kind of interesting idea...

    by V'Shael

    but it's one of those "There's no path from here to there" stories. <p> There is simply no way that humans as we know them, would accept that sort of lifestyle. <p> It's the sort of thought-experiment that fills the heads of those who oppose things like stem-cell research. What if all of society started basically cloning people for spare parts? It would never happen. We're not that f***ed up as a species.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:11 a.m. CST

    The cloning for parts...

    by Marshal_Lannes

    ...bit is straight out of Heinlein, circa 40 years ago....

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Derek Vinyard Says Massawyrm Is The Worst Liar All Year!

    by derek_vinyard

    dude, fuck off. you know this is an arthouse "the island". just because it's arthouse, doesn't mean it's not a rip-off. you are lying through your teeth, sir. i will call you on it.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:14 a.m. CST


    by thommcg

    Maybe they hope to make money doing it that way. Children of Men was a flop after all.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:15 a.m. CST


    by Flibbertygibbet

    This is a film about those that DON'T run away? Are Keira et al playing retards then? I could understand the conceit of keeping your crop as dumb as possible, but I get the impression that's not the road they've gone down? To be fair though, I'm not sure how much room that would leave for breathtaking romance: "i wuv u!""i wuv u more...wait...where's my kidney?!"

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Didn't they already do this with "The Island?"

    by PornKing

    I mean we've already explored this idea, and the fact is that you have to swallow a huge 10" cock of a pill to be able to believe that we would ever do anything like this. It's one thing to clone body parts, it's another to clone entire people and raise them as normal people, then hack off parts. 0% probability of ever happening.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Yeah, but he liked Taken, so what does that say....

    by coconutgroves

    Best film of the year? Really? Does Liam Neeson make a cameo?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:21 a.m. CST

    I'm calling it: this year's Lovely Bones

    by I am_NOTREAL

    Beloved novel (which I also didn't care for as much as the zeitgeist), hotly anticipated movie adaptation with an Awards pedigree, pre-release and limited-release buzz, and then...pffft. No one will care about this by year's end.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:21 a.m. CST

    Is it better than Primer?

    by quicksilver80

    I love Primer

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:32 a.m. CST

    great, more 30 year old teenagers

    by Spandau Belly

    This does sound like a good movie, but I keep wondering if anybody in Hollywood has actually seen a real teenager. They look a lot different from a babyfaced 25 year old when you actually put them side by side. I also find it frustrating to watch older actors playing teenagers because I keep judging the maturity of their actions on adult standards. I think of a movie like STAND BY ME and how much power there was in having those words and actions actually come out of real skinny little kids.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:34 a.m. CST

    Bloody vampire films!!

    by Valenni

    So what, they are cloning vampires now?? Whats wrong with this world!!!

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:34 a.m. CST


    by OptimusBob

    Over at Imdb they're running a story that PJ is CONFIRMED to direct the Hobbit, isn't this newsworthy?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Not all Clones Live in Boarding Schools

    by wilsonfisk89

    spoiler? This school was progressive, and tried to prove the clones had souls at all. I imagine most clones spent thier short existences in abhorent conditions, which made the story even more horrific. Good review. Great film.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:39 a.m. CST


    by A_Clockwork_Irony

    The Town was great and just saw Let Me In and had to go buy the book I was so engaged. Haven't seen this one, but so far, I'd say Inception and Let Me In are the best I've seen. Affleck did a great job directing Town, and while I loved it, nowhere near as "refreshing" as the aforementioned. If anyone thought about seeing Let Me In, please do yourself a favor and see it. A wonderful dark "fairy tale".

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 10:59 a.m. CST

    Show me one

    by Hipshot

    Just one clone rebelling, otherwise they aren't talking about human beings, or even the clones thereof. Everyone dies, but not everyone passively accepts it. I will simply not be able to believe this world unless it is peopled with...people. Alter the life drive so that 100% of people accept death passively, and you have changed so many other aspects of their psychology they would be unrecognizable.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:09 a.m. CST

    Better Than "INCEPTION!!!?.....Heracy.

    by cookylamoo

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Fantastic film but hugely depressing

    by Powers Boothe

    I watched this a few weeks ago in Manhattan. My date and I actually canceled our post movie dinner plans because the film unexpectedly bummed us out so hard. It took me a few days to shake the memory of this. Not sure I would ever want to watch it again.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:13 a.m. CST

    It's a Brilliant Failure

    by Anton_Sirius

    massa's right about most of the technical and acting stuff being exceptionally good (except for Keira, who's not terribly good) but the movie completely failed for me because there's no attempt to be realistic. No protests from religious fundies, no suicides or self-destructive behavior among the clones, not even an attempt by the authorities to protect their very valuable medical resources from things like car accidents or disease... the utter lack of understanding of human nature in the film is astounding.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:15 a.m. CST

    Inception's last shot: Brilliant!

    by GravyAkira

    Im thinking Leo's still dreaming.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:17 a.m. CST


    by topfivevideo

    Quick question and I'm not trying to be a shit; how can I watch this without thinking "fuck, they already did this in the Island". I have no doubt that it's probably done either differently or just way better but still, I just don't want to sit there and keep wishing I was watching Scarlett running around with her massive cleavage in my face for two hours... thats a hard thing to beat.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:20 a.m. CST

    Look forward to seeing them Clockwork

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

    Inception, my favourite for the year so far, saw it 3 times, discussed it multiple times

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:55 a.m. CST


    by Hipshot

    I was totally devastated by the incinerator scene. Couldn't believe what I was watching. Anyone who called this a "cash grab" has probably never created and sold a work of art in their lives. Toy Story 3 was WONDERFUL.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:56 a.m. CST


    by STLost

    Choppah got the Hobbit director story before here!

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:57 a.m. CST

    Never Let Me Go looks good

    by lv_426

    I find it refreshing that it doesn't go the obvious route of the clones trying to escape like in The Island.<P>As for what is and isn't science fiction, I'm getting tired of the genre always fighting amongst itself. It really doesn't matter what is pure science fiction, hard science fiction, cyberpunk, space opera, science fantasy, steampunk, etc... it is all lumped together in the bookstore anyways. And true hard sci-fi can be very limiting, so the other end of the spectrum (space opera/science fantasy) is just as valid because it counterpoints the hard end. Why can't we just enjoy or hate the various films and novels for what they are, regardless of their science fictional sub sub-genres?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 11:57 a.m. CST


    by Hipshot

    Clearly, Nolan deliberately didn't give enough information to be certain. The end is designed to make you think and discuss. I think he had made it "out", but there's no way to prove my point--it's just a belief.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Massa, if you've read the book...

    by FranklinStreet

    Never Let Me Go is a big disappointment and remarkable emotionally unaffecting because somehow Garfield took everything out of the book that made the story work and was truly compelling and involving. Not sure why this thing was delivered in a spare 90-minute version when doing so means that we get the Cliff's notes version without any of the subtlety, depth, or poignancy of the novel. Romanek's version, despite the gorgeous photography, perfect casting, and great acting, is just a colossal blunderfuck.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 12:06 p.m. CST

    no edit button

    by FranklinStreet

    should be remarkablY

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 12:29 p.m. CST

    Not flawless

    by Koyaanisqatsi

    It's great but not flawless. Knightley is bland and the sci-fi setting doesn't really benefit the type of story being told. It would have been just as or more effective had it just been the story of these three kids who grew up in a boarding school and weren't clones.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 1:12 p.m. CST

    Is that old Alice Cooper song in the soundtrack?

    by HarryKnowlesNonExistentInceptionReview

    Didn't think so. How about Radiohead's "Kid A"?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Cloning for parts...

    by HarryKnowlesNonExistentInceptionReview

    ... right out of John Byrne's "World of Krypton" series.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 2:49 p.m. CST

    "may or may not"

    by TheHumanBurrito

    Great review but dammit does that phrase irritate me anywhere I see it. Allow me to quote Maddox: Ever hear someone say "that may or may not be the case," as if there's some hidden third possibility that we weren't aware of? Thanks for pointing out the only two possibilities in the universe.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 3:09 p.m. CST

    Massa is slowly, VERY slowly, turning into Harry

    by ricarleite2

    At least he didn't sleep on this one, nor did he wish it had vampires and werewolves.

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 3:35 p.m. CST


    by BringingSexyBack


  • Oct. 6, 2010, 4 p.m. CST

    and another edit to my comment

    by FranklinStreet

    in reference to the script, I was obviously talking about GarLAND, not Garfield

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 4:20 p.m. CST


    by BringingSexyBack

    I was like what is he talking about?

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:07 p.m. CST

    Hey Massa...

    by Troy McNamara

    ...I was just wondering where is your Social Network review because I've been dying to hear your full thoughts. Great review as always! :)

  • Oct. 6, 2010, 9:47 p.m. CST

    Best Movie Of The Year?

    by applescruff

    Fuck that. This movie wasn't even one of the 10 best movies I've seen all year. The Social Network, Inception, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Toy Story 3, Animal Kingdom, The Town, Mother, Kick-Ass, Exit Through The Gift Shop and Cyrus were all better than this movie. A few of the performances well decent, but the script is half-assed in attempting to examine the themes of the story. The novel is LIGHT YEARS better than the film. And I saw the film before I read the book. So this wasn't a preconceived notion I had walking into the theater. It may say something about the movie that I decided to read the book after seeing it, though. Not bad, but DEFINITELY not great.

  • Oct. 7, 2010, 10:51 a.m. CST

    FranklinStreet has it right

    by mcflash

    This is far from the best film of the year. I was no big fan of the book but even that had more 'heart' than this film. I found their decisions of what to include or disclude from the book to be completely bizarre.

  • Oct. 7, 2010, 11:12 a.m. CST

    expanded story from an ep of Enterprise

    by spidercoz

    the one where they had to grow a new Trip to save the real one, one of the better stories they had

  • Oct. 7, 2010, 11:29 a.m. CST

    The problem with Never Let Me Go

    by FranklinStreet

    Is that they tell you exactly what's going on in the opening title, and then they spell it out to the kids 30 minutes in. Part of what made the book work was a) the fact that the kids haven't known any other life or existence, so don't know enough to try to run away, and live in a world where that's not even an option that would occur to them, and b) the way that they've been brought up, the way that they talk to each other and have sort of created their own language of half-truths and secrets, that keeps them distanced from each other and confused. This is much of the plot of the book, Kathy trying to figure out what their lives are about while circumventing the odd relationship and communication that she and Ruth have, and the way the other boys treat Tommy. But the film does away with trying to portray this odd, mysterious shorthanded communication that encourages confusion between its parties and is much of what helps keep the children lost and unknowing. And without it, the film doesn't have much mystique, isn't very compelling or emotionally affecting, and simply loses most of what made the book so engrossing and unique. Garland's screeplay has oddly stripped the book of what made it work. And not only that, but the last line in the movie, in somehow trying to make the experience of the film universal to the audience, undermines itself and the struggle of its characters and undoes the little of what was left from the book that did work. It's really a hideously awful line to end your film on and displays a total lack of confidence in the film itself. It's the kind of thing that is supposed to occur to the audience sub-consciously, but actually coming out and saying it and ending the film that way pretty much ruins everything.

  • Feb. 24, 2011, 7:32 p.m. CST

    What, no noms?

    by Specktron

    Fuck off - this was great. Mulligan, Knightley and Garfield are all great, but its a tough year. Sucky.