13 October 2010

Still Not Letting Go

I read Never Let Me Go almost two years ago; I probably heard about it because the deal for the film version had just been signed and having read a (thankfully sparse) review, I knew I had to read the book as soon as possible. Indeed, I did and I loved it (it was my favourite book of 2008). More than that, though, it has haunted me as it has haunted many people who have read it. On one level, it's a tragic love story--a love triangle gone horribly wrong--but it's also so much more than that and it is so successful because of the subtly devastating twists Kazuo Ishiguro inflicts upon the reader, bit by by painful bit. Not to mention the awful euphemisms, where every day words like "donor" and "completion" take on cruel new meanings.

After such a heart crushing novel, I was worried about the film version. More so when I found out Keira Knightley had been cast although less so when I found out she was playing Ruth, the jealous best frenemy of the protagonist, Kathy H. At the time, I didn't really know Carey Mulligan, who was cast in the lead role, although I saw her with Keira in Pride and Prejudice. I saw some on-set photos of various beaches in Norfolk and was then left to wonder how the film would turn out.

The film isn't coming out in the UK until January but luckily, I got tickets to see it opening this year's London Film Festival (AKA LoFiFest) and attended the premiere tonight. After the excitement of the red carpet and having about 75 paparazzi yelling, "Keira!" at me (OK, maybe they weren't talking to me), it was into the auditorium where eventually, the director, producers, writer, author and many of the cast (including Carey Mulligan, Keira, Andrew Garfield and their mini-mes) came up onto the stage to be clapped and, in some cases, to talk. And then it all began...

It was always going to be difficult for a film to pull off Ishiguro's technique of revealing things in slow and steady stages, mainly because it was through his subtle language that this worked well in the book. The film had to be less subtle and I was worried when, in the opening scenes, I felt the viewer was told too much. I thought it would make later revelations less powerful than they would otherwise be. Actually, though, the film was plenty chilling, plenty moving and plenty tragic nonetheless, partly thanks to great performances from Mulligan and Garfield, Mulligan playing her character's quiet acceptance and understanding of her fate perfectly, which contrasted sharply with the scene of Garfield's character raging by the side of the road, unable to contain his fury and pain any longer. Keira was fine too, playing the best friend whose selfish actions separate Kathy H. and Tommy; it definitely wouldn't have worked with Keira playing Kathy.

I was so intrigued by the idea of Never Let Me Go that I bought the book right away (I now buy books only rarely--when I'm sure I will read them again) and I will reread it now. Although the film did capture the mood of the book and many of the important scenes, there was a lot that it missed out and while many of the edits were probably the right ones, it will be nice to revisit the rest--and Ishiguro's beautiful words.

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