29 Days of Romance: Review #5, Never Let Me Go (2010)

29 Days of Romance: Review #5, Never Let Me Go (2010)
Never Let Me Go poster
IMDb

Directed by: Mark Romanek. Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield. Runtime: 1h 43 min. Released: September 15, 2010.

I think the most pleasant surprise about Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go for is when I remembered it was written by Alex Garland when I saw his name in the credits. He adapts Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name so well, and the film has such a literary feel and literary structure that it is compelling to watch.

Even though this has been out for 10 years, I quite literally knew nothing about this one other than the cast and title. I wanted to watch this for Keira Knightley but she’s far from the best part about this. The story is about three friends – Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) – as we follow them from their childhood at a posh English boarding school called Hailsham, into their adulthood where they embrace what they’ve put on this Earth for.

And really, from the point that a teacher at Hailsham, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), tells the children their purpose, I was hooked by the premise of this. This is a world with “donors” and “carers” where, thanks to the advancement of medicine, organ donation is a big thing and this is what these characters are chosen for. The carers are those that help the donors along.

There are a few twists and turns in this, but the “science fiction” part of this romance feels minimal and doesn’t bog down the story for those who don’t like science fiction that much. There’s some science fiction when we’re learning more about these donors. This aspect brings an extra layer to it that these characters won’t be able to live full lives.

It also says something about appreciating the time you do have on Earth. Garland’s screenplay portrays all these themes beautifully, especially the aspect of art in the film and how it relates to the character’s humanity. The characters themselves are lovely.

Never Let Me Go article
Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go. (IMDb)

I think Carey Mulligan is phenomenal here as Kathy and her quiet nature and compassion is great. She’s the heart and soul here. Andrew Garfield also has a couple of strong moments to shine. Keira Knightley plays Ruth very well, even though I never felt as much sympathy for the character as I would have liked.

She’s the reason for the love triangle between them that’s at the core of the story, and it starts out believably enough at Hailsham. It’s also just heartbreaking because Kathy and Tommy seem perfect together, and that aspect makes it feel realistic for Ruth as a character. The jealousy portrayed is solid. It’s solid in scenes where it’s being voiced and talked about, and solid in one scene where Ruth is territorial. I don’t really like Knightley’s character here, but she plays jealous very well.

The contrast between Ruth and Kathy as characters makes this dynamic so intriguing. The actor’s chemistry as young adults as a trio works very well, as they just sell the intimacy of it all. The film works throughout as it reaches emotional points in the film (most of these reside in the third act for me) and it works very well in the beginning when they are children. The child actors (Charlie Rowe as Tommy, Izzy Meikle-Small as Kathy and Ella Purnell as Ruth) do a great job and look like the adult counterparts. I think the only way the casting would be better here in terms of looking like their adult counterparts is if Ruth were played by Alicia Vikander.

The structure of this film is just very easy to watch throughout, but never to a point where it is too simplistic. Garland’s adaptation of this is just excellent. Rachel Portman’s score also complements the story so well and it really made me feel the humanity of the characters in this heartbreaking story.

Score: 80/100

The Great Gatsby (2013)

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby

Release Date: May 10, 2013

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire

Runtime: 143 min

An astounding adaptation of a novel is rare. Some notable greats include The Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, and recently, Life of Pi. There are bad ones, like every other Stephen King adaptation (that isn’t handled by acclaimed directors or starring great actors). The newest book-to-movie adaptation is of The Great Gatsby, where Baz Luhrmann decides to stay faithful to the source material, and this turns out to be a great adaptation of a highly-acclaimed book.

Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a Midwestern war veteran who moves to Long Island, and he soon becomes attracted to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Luhrmann takes a unique stylish approach to the source material, and there’s enough substance to keep movie-goers satisfied. The odd scene feels empty and rings dull. This is most notably the interaction at the barbershop between Wolfsheim, Gatsby and Carraway. The audience does the feel the emotions they’re supposed to feel, and they become invested in the few characters (Gatsby, Carraway) that are actually likeable.  The symbols of the Green Light and the Eyes of of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are significant enough to the story, that they begin to become characters in themselves; and they begin to feel more likeable than some of the characters. Luhrmann achieves his fantastic vision, while still keeping Fitzgerald’s classic themes – love, hope, dreams, the past, wealth, prosperity, the American dream – intact.

Simultaneously, he achieves the Fitzgerald-like vision, and I think F. Scott Fitzgerald would approve of this if he were alive. I like to think I comprehend the cultural significance of the source novel, even if it is a boring book. I’d rather re-visit this movie and not the book, and that might be because I think listening to big words is easier than reading them. The movie is just as slow as the book itself, but if it were any quicker, it would feel rushed. A rushed movie wouldn’t leave such a lasting impression. It’s a great adaptation because the viewer feels the same way as if they were actually reading the novel. The thought-provoking feature is handled so well and it is very well-made. It’s always intelligent and rarely boring. If one reads the novel, there’s no way they could imagine set pieces so lavish and magnificent as this. I think this is quite the great achievement.

The extravagant set pieces, production design and costume design truly capture the essence of the 1920’s. This movie will make you fall in love with the time period all over again. The contemporary music surprisingly fits the amazing parties that are thrown, as well as the movie’s style. The contrast between the rich lifestyle of Long Island and the slum-like lifestyle of the Valley of Ashes is fascinating.

The introduction of each character is refreshing, and each star captures the significance and mystery of each character. The cast is a great ensemble. Joel Edgerton brings some fine intensity and spot-on arrogance to the despicable Tom Buchanan. If there’s any role to make Edgerton a household name, it’s this one. Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher are the right choices to capture the poor, paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle of the 1920s, as George and Myrtle Wilson, respectively. Elizabeth Debicki rocks her big feature film debut as Jordan Baker. Carey Mulligan (who is almost always fantastic) is delicate and stunning as the irritating Daisy Buchanan, but she really embraces the foolishness of the character, and she performs superbly.

Tobey Maguire is adequate as Nick Carraway. He’s the character that has to keep everyone’s secrets. Maguire’s range of emotions isn’t wide. There’s some obvious emotions of regret, contempt and anxiety when he’s writing about Gatsby; and he always seems intrigued and in awe in Gatsby’s presence. He’s a better presence when he is narrating. The pairing of Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio reminds me of the Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman pair of The Shawshank Redemption. Everyone will praise the latter, and the former will get the shorter end of the stick. Every person who walks out of the theatre will be discussing the latter performer first.

DiCaprio truly captures the essence of Gatsby, a man of hope, of mystery, and delicacy, a man who rose from ashes to be, like Jack Dawson of Titanic, “king of the world”. He is an intriguing character, it just feels right to hear DiCaprio say “old sport” so much in one movie. After watching this great man portray Gatsby, it’s hard to imagine anyone other actor in the role. He gives one hell of a performance, and he is one of the best things about the film. He draws the viewers into the picture more; and the movie truly takes flight right when the essential introduction of the mystery host comes about. It’s really a refreshing introduction to an intriguing character.

Luhrmann surprisingly stays faithful to the novel. He maintains the intelligent themes, takes some really boring material out, and throws some fresh material in. The movie is long and it feels that way, but everything unfolds in a visually compelling way. It’s rarely boring, and Luhrmann truly makes classic literature feel sexy. The utilization of 3D makes the sets even cooler, and it feels like it adds a whole new layer. This is a very good adaptation of a novel hailed as one of literature’s greatest books and tragedies; but sadly, and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t translate into one of cinema’s greatest films.

82/100

The Great Gatsby’s release date delayed

I know I’m a little late on the bandwagon, but when I found out the news, I think it’s still pretty worthy to blog about.

The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name, was supposed to hit theatres on Christmas day of this year, but it has now been delayed to summer 2013.

The only flick I’ve seen from Luhrmann is Romeo + Juliet, which I liked. I respect the guy for his artsy style, as Moulin Rouge! and Australia have been on my watchlist for awhile. His film making and writing might bring something interesting to the project. I haven’t read the Gatsby book, but it sounds fairly interesting. I really enjoy Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. 

Maybe it was a good choice for Warner Bros. to decide to change the date, as this and Hobbit would be coming out around the same time, both big projects. Also, both big projects, this film and Django Unchained were originally to be released Christmas day, and they both star DiCaprio.

I think it is a pretty good choice for the release date to be moved to next year, as it should potentially help the film during award seasons.

While I’m not overly excited to see the film, I probably would have still given it a chance. It sucks that the release date got extended so much. I won’t care to see the flick in 3D.

Overall, I can wait for the flick. Maybe they can improve the quality of it with more time for production; I mean just look at Avatar right?