Disinformation can be truly unsettling…especially when it is personal in nature. In order to truly understand what it is we’re put on this earth to do, and how we are going to do it, we need more than anything to understand where it is we came from. Not having any inkling of one’s own roots leaves us like lost boys and girls…wandering in circles for answers while not even understanding the questions.

NEVER LET ME GO tells a story that I will summarize in a rather vague fashion. The story begins at Hailsham Boarding School in England. Children there are given a fine education, with a heavy emphasis on art and writing. From the get-go, we hear that students of Hailsham are special. Why though?

When addressing a class of pre-teens, a teacher named Miss Lucy alludes to the situation. All she really gets off is that the students have “Been told, and not told” why they are there…who they are…what their legacy is. There is talk of galleries and collections, of donations and completion…but nothing concrete. Not now. Not here. Not while these young minds are so impressionable.

The story then skips ahead seven or eight years. As it happens, students near the end of their time at Hailsham are sent off campus for the first time to work and create in seclusion. One such group, one that includes Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Kiera Knightley) are sent to a country estate known only as “The Cottages”. It is here where their young adult ambition will lead them to the truth about their past, and prepare them for their future.

NEVER LET ME GO is laced with a very haunting tone. The film is backed by a low, achingly beautiful score…and many of the shots seem to be using available light. It all combines in such a way, that we feel like we are walking right next to these characters. We aren’t learning their story from a distance; they have taken us by the hand and asked us to come along as these details of their lives become resolved.

If I seem to be overly vague in my review, then I must plead guilty your honour. However, the reason I’m being scarce with the details, is because it was my experience that while this film tells a heartbreaking story, its one where the impact is lessened the more you know. What I will say is this: all three of these three major characters seem to know that their path will go in a separate direction from the others. What the film does rather well, is leave us asking whether the fracture of this little group will lead to complete chaos where their fragile friendship is concerned.

As is the case in life, some of them seem to know more than others. Ruth for instance, seems to get a sadistic twist off needling Kathy for what she does and doesn’t know about herself. Appropriately enough, during one such bedtime challenge, Ruth’s profile is completely in shadow, while Kathy’s is delicately lit. What are we supposed to do when someone claims to have the answers? Do we drop everything and follow their lead, or do we continue to search ourselves for the truth?

The three young actors that carry this film all do a splendid job of driving our emotions, and likewise playing off each other. There is a sophistication to them even at this young age, and a dignity that permeates their quest for the truth. Even though all three take on the world in very different ways, giving us a chance to really revel in Garfield’s angst, Knightley’s malcontent, and Mulligans stoicism.

The film has been directed by Mark Romanek – who has been away from the scene for far too long. He has filmed the movie at arm’s reach, allowing the characters to truly inhabit the sets they work on and not just walk through them. Likewise, the adaptation of the novel by screenwriter Alex Garland has zeroed in on the best themes of the book. He has sacrificed some of their school years at Hailsham to give us the good stuff, but has relayed the story in a sharp manner…one that emphasizes young adult pain over pre-teen antics.

NEVER LET ME GO wants us to focus on drawing back the curtain of our own legacy. It wants us to know that we desperately need to understand where we’ve been if we want to have any clue where it is we’re going. What’s worse, is that when we finally do get on our way to meet the wizard, we need to prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that there is a little bald guy pulling the strings. Perhaps most painfully, is the realization that it’s not even his life that he’s toying with. It’s ours.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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