Who's In It: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Nathalie Richard
The Basics: I feel more strongly about not spoiling the mysteries of this movie than I do about the extremely annoying Catfish. So here is the plot, as much as I think you should know: In 1952, medical science in the U.K. achieved a breakthrough that would allow for human life expectancy to exceed 100 years, eradicating many major death-dealing illnesses. The price, however, involves the children at a strange, strictly cocooned, physically eroding boarding school. And when they grow up into Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man) they have to pay it.
What's The Deal: This movie has one major problem that I'll get later in this review, but for now I just want to praise what's worth praising. Its weirdnesses and questions float all around even after Sally Hawkins' teacher character comes along and spells out every horrible truth for the children. Its cold, just-outside-of-contemporary, cloud-covered English world resembles a recent past, it's just a recent past that never happened. And director Mark Romanek manages to make that very real(ish) world look and feel totally alien and hermetically sealed, a gray/blue/green/brown tragedy terrarium that both perfectly colorless and incredibly, inescapably sad.
Everybody Hates Keira: You know how people bag on her all the time for just about everything? I don't get it. Okay, so she's skinny. So what? Some people just are. And her acting is... okay sometimes she's just a block of balsa wood with a snooty face, I know. But here she's just what she's supposed to be, a person bred to be emotionless who finds out she's not "all but human" (Charlotte Rampling's strict school headmistress throws out that one like an extremely cold, sharp knife) but so human she can't figure out what to do about it. Everyone else is perfectly cast, too, especially Carey Mulligan, the narrator, heartbreaking as the girl who connects to the pop song that gives the movie its title and who gets left behind all the same.
The Bummeriest Part of a Bummer Movie: The final 60 seconds. If you could walk out before that part happens you'd have a truly depressing movie you could get really get behind and love, one that didn't feel the need to spell everything out for you. But for some reason they decided to wrap up all the ambiguities and tell you exactly how you're supposed to feel about what you've just watched via more voiceover narration from Mulligan. It's the kind of move that makes you want to talk back to the screen and remind it that you're not an idiot.
Who'll Get It The Most: British people old enough to remember when England was a place where you were rigidly locked into your class and social status from birth (and Anglophiles who wish life was one big Merchant-Ivory movie). This is from Kazuo Ishiguro, after all, the author of The Remains of The Day, another story about knowing your place and doing what you're told and not moving one inch outside of that plan. Think of it as a sci-fi update of that same clamped-down reserve. Not brimming with laughs, obviously, and people who dig that, you know who you are.