Mark Romanek directs Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley and Andrew Garfield in this sci-fi dystopian romance based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 award winning novel.
At a strange boarding school, the children are gently being prepared for a life of brutal exploitation, very different but not quite different enough, from our own. Ishiguro’s novel explored cloning and could be seen as an allegory for farming, mortality or even being working class in a system designed by the upper classes. As with all his works, there’s a protagonist living by a very strict rule which leads to regrets once opportunities to love and take risks are missed. The problem is the book is dreamy, always from a distinct POV where we always know just a morsel more than our naïve but curious narrator. A movie needs to make the imagined, explicit… the hinted at, indisputable. I think I was thrown the first time I caught this at the cinema. The adaptation of the book was unshowy, kind of drab, and I didn’t care for the casting. A decade down the line and I have far more admiration for Knightley and Garfield. Romanek’s visuals are very precise. I think you could watch this with the sound off and still get an equal understanding of the drip-fed plot and stunted but ghastly emotions. He’s never really lived up to the promise his three very distinct movies (Static, One Hour Photo)… I feel given the chance he could be as great as Fincher or Park Chan-wook … but having to wait over a decade each time to realise a feature film in the Hollywood system must take its toll. Screenwriter Alex Garland’s adaptation of the book fits in more recognisably with his later directorial efforts. A nettle, warm tea, soggy woollen jumper vision of British sci-fi, owing as much too Wyndham, Orwell and Kneale as it does to those government Public Service Warning adverts that scarred a generation. This might be one of the saddest mainstream genre films ever made and it certainly is evocative and quietly challenging. Its only failure is not surpassing the outstanding source material.
Perfect Double Bill: Gattaca (1997)
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