Who’s In It: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Nathalie Richard, Ella Purnell, Isobel Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe
The Basics: Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley) have lived their entire lives at Hailsham, a boarding school with an unusual secret. As they grow up to fulfill their destinies and discover the harsh realities of their seemingly idyllic world, the three friends cling to their close friendship even as love, longing, and betrayal threaten to tear them apart. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro.
What’s The Deal: Set in an alternate-reality England of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, this science fiction-tinged period pic brings Ishiguro’s novel to life in beautiful, moving fashion. Avoiding spoilers is recommended, but knowing the film’s twist won’t diminish its emotional impact thanks to an achingly affecting performance by Carey Mulligan as the empathetic protagonist/narrator/observer, Kathy. Through Kathy’s eyes we take in the world of Hailsham, a golden-hued institution where the central trio meets as youngsters and where peculiarly strict rules suggest something strange is afoot. We feel Kathy’s silent suffering as she watches the boy she loves (Andrew Garfield) as he’s charmed by her cunning BFF (Keira Knightley), held under her spell for too long out of sheer spite, loneliness, and jealousy. Agonizing though it may be at times, exploring the whole spectrum of emotion is the aim of Never Let Me Go, which reminds us that joy and pain and love and loss are all part of the human experience.
Who’s Good: Keira Knightley, alternately naïve, seductive, needy, and vindictive as Kathy’s best frenemy, Ruth. Is she Best Supporting Actress good? Don't rule it out. Andrew Garfield, set to be the next Spider-Man, gives the simple-minded Tommy shades of innocence and rage that underscore his relationships with both of the women vying for his heart.
Who's Great: Carey Mulligan, nominated for an Oscar just last year for her breakout role in the '60s-set coming of age tale An Education. (Also phenomenal: Isobel Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, and Ella Purnell, the child actors who play the young versions of Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth who set the tone of the characters' love triangle with incredibly mature, at times heartbreaking performances during the film's first act.) Expect to see Mulligan back in the running for Best Actress this year as Never Let Me Go emerges a solid all-around contender in the 2010 awards race.
What Takes A Backseat To Never Let Me Go's Emotional Agenda: The kind of overt moralizing you might expect from the story's sci-fi set up. The right questions are there beneath the surface, pondered quietly by supporting players like Charlotte Rampling as Hailsham's stern headmistress, Natalie Richard as the icy Madame, and Sally Hawkins as a compassionate teacher.
Where You've Seen Director Mark Romanek's Work Before: Before transitioning into feature films with 1985's Static and 2002's One Hour Photo, Romanek cultivated a career directing notable music videos for the likes of Nine Inch Nails ("Closer"), Michael and Janet Jackson ("Scream"), Madonna ("Rain," "Bedtime Story"), Jay-Z ("99 Problems") and Johnny Cash ("Hurt").