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I’ve fallen way behind on this.  Let’s see what I can do to catch up.

First up is Never Let Me Go, based off of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The film is set in an alternate universe, where clones are grown and raised to donate organs (and I’m not spoiling anything here: the novel gives away this premise in the first three pages).  It’s slow paced and somewhat melodramatic, but that’s what it’s supposed to be.  The characters – Kathy H., Tommy, and Ruth – explore their lives from their youth at Hailsham to their first real life experiences at the Cottage and the eventuality of completion.  It’s a search for humanity in the face of them not being human, and they experience the very things that are supposed to make them human: love, hate, jealousy, betrayal, friendship, etc.  It’s essentially science fiction in a not very science fiction type world, but because it’s science fiction, the creators can play a bit more with the various pieces needed for the story.

The movie doesn’t live up to the level that the novel did – very few can, honestly – but it succeeds in bringing forth what is important from the novel.  The kids grow up at Hailsham, somewhat oblivious to their purpose, although one teacher, Miss Lucy, tells her students one day about what will happen.  She disagrees with the program at large, probably because they’re raising these kids in a false environment.  The kids can’t escape their predetermined fate, yet they’re raised to think that they’ll contribute to society like everyone else does.  In some way, they do; for example, we have the option to donate our organs upon our demise.  Yet this is different from the characters in this film: they donate while they’re still alive, and all that they’ll ever do is donate until they complete.  Even when the rumor of deferment is brought to the headmasters of Hailsham near the end of the film, that’s all these characters are doing, just deferring the inevitable (and they – being Kathy and Tommy – are quietly crushed by the answer).  They’ll complete eventually, but all they want is for the final few years of life to be with someone.

It’s selfish, but really, isn’t that what we all are, is inherently selfish?

The performances are strong throughout, though all are completely trounced by Carey Mulligan, who seems to get better with each successive leading role.  Both Knightley and Garfield are good as well; this actually plays to Knightley’s strengths as an actress in that she’s very jealous and plotting.  Garfield was better in the Social Network, but he’s still effective here, bringing both the childlike characteristics and the simmering anger and intensity that define Tommy’s character throughout his life.  It’s their performances that drive the film.

In the end, Never Let Me Go is a very worthwhile exploration of humanity.

B+

Yes, I know, it’s been a while since I did a DVD review.

In fact, you’re getting three.

It was originally just going to be An Education, but then it wasn’t, until I got a last minute phone call for being able to view this movie. I already had two other movies in my hand. So, you’re getting three movies: two British films, one American, all indie.

All perfectly fine by me (the selection, though all of the movies were good to excellent as well).

Anyway, let’s start with An Education, one of the best movies of 2009.

I say best in terms of everything, starting with production: it’s perfect. It’s brilliant in that I found nothing wrong, and after the second viewing, the things I missed the first time around or thought I missed were perfectly laid out. The movie works. There’s no argument about that.

The movie tackles just about everything too in regards to the relevancy of the time period: 1960’s London. The opening credits lay the foundation: women, being the expectant homebody, are learning more about cooking, cleaning, and general life as a wife than other life or career skills. You were expected to be married, or be a teacher, or a nurse. The options were limited. You were typecast the moment you were born, unfortunately.

Jenny, played masterfully by Carry Mulligan (she was my pick to win best actress at the Oscars), wants to at least raise herself beyond that. She’s pushed hard by her father (Alfred Molina in an Oscar-caliber role) in school: do well, study hard, get to Oxford (it’s all coming out of his pocket anyway). She wants to go to Oxford too, mainly to read English, but to also to embrace the world.

Enter David, a charming, older gentleman (his age is never given, but it’s speculated that he’s in his thirties), who is well to do, but is also a deceptive individual and a con artist. He introduces her to his friends, Danny (a fellow con artist) and Helen. Jenny enters into a world she has only been able to dream of before: late nights, music, dancing, and traveling. She has fun, too much fun. Her friends are envious, but loving her stories. Her teachers, on the other hand, hate to see her throw her life away.

But slowly she does, finding her well built world crumble piece by piece under David’s charms. She falls in love. She turns 17 and gives her virginity to him. He proposes, and decides after a conversation with her parents (who has also fallen for David’s disarming charms), says yes. It becomes the end of her school career, and soon becomes the end of her, once she finds out David’s secret.

I feel I maybe saying too much, but I’m not. I wrote about this movie back in October, before it came out, when I read an article by Lynn Barber. Her memoir served as the basis for the film, an all true story of an education, both in school and in life, love, and the ultimate deception. Here’s the link to the article , and I highly recommend the read. It captures everything the film does so wonderfully.

I think it goes without saying that I recommend this film highly.  Intelligent, humorous, and enlightening.  Now how many films can boast that claim?