Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Never Let Me Go

This evening I went to see Never Let Me Go at the cinema, I film I knew nothing about, apart from it being based on a book written by Kazuo Ishiguro, and it had a young couple in it, and thus I figured there would probably be something depressing involving a butler and Emma Thompson.  And maybe some coming-of-age involving a song by a band from the 1960s.
It is depressing, but it was nothing like what I expected; Never Let Me Go is a pretty decent science fiction film, not in the spaceships colliding into the sun sense (unlike Sunshine, also made by DNA films and an absolute mound of tosh) but instead something much more subtle, taking an idea and exploring some of its consequences in full and grim detail.

Part of it being grim is because it recreates England, from some vague 1950s era, so even though it's set in the 1980s and a Sony Walkman makes an appearance, most of the interiors are cold and bleak and gloomy. American television appears for a few moments and doesn't help, and if that wasn't bleak enough, at one point the characters go to a beach in Norfolk.

Well, I say Norfolk.  Apparently it was filmed in Weston-Super-Mare, on the other side of England, which I doubt matters to anyone.  And I say beach, but it's set in England so it's actually the seaside, that strange depressing strand that abuts both the sea and the land in England, and is just a locus of misery, unhappy children, rocks and litterbins full of wasps, rather than the sunny sandy paradise that constitutes a beach in the rest of world.

The other reason for it being grim, apart from it being full of stilted, emotionally suffocated people stuck in the worst part of the 1970s (even though it's set between 1978 and 1994) is the main point of the plot, which is something that I don't want to mention because I think the plot works better if you come to it fresh.  Oh, and the colour palette of the film is washed out and grey, and the little incidental music that there is doesn't lift your spirits either.

So it's probably not the kind of film you want to go and see to finish off a cheery night of beers with the lads.  Unless you want to really finish off the cheery component of the night tout suite.

I really enjoyed it though.  Perhaps enjoyment isn't quite the right word, but seeing all the open, slightly-desolate English countryside, hearing all the people talk in careful, clipped English accents, made me feel nostalgic, even if that was for a parallel English world that never really existed, and (one assumes) technical and industrial development was largely aborted due to what happened in the 1950s.  I suppose there's quite a lot of nuance that you wouldn't pick up unless you lived in England during the 1980s and could recognise that some features were missing, or signified that progress had been retarded.  You might have thought that England really was as grey and dull and depressing in the 1980s as the film depicts.

Which in many senses it was, but this heightened slough of despond is strangely effective at evoking a sense of England that never quite was; no rage from the closing of the mines and the rest of the schisms of the 1980s, but a slower, more deathly, less hopeful country.

Now I'm wondering why that would make me nostalgic.  Something's clearly wrong with me.


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