'Never Let Me Go'

Sci-fi meets period drama

Here is an exotic hybrid. We’ve got Alex Garland, the writer of The Beach, adapting a celebrated dystopian novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I haven’t read the Ishiguro novel, but those who have are a bit shocked to see that the story’s horrifying premise, which remains mysterious for much of the book, is explained at the end of the first act. I suppose that makes it fair game for plot summaries, but I’m not going to do that here.  Let’s just say that the story is set in England, and concerns a love triangle among three former school mates (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield) who acquiesce to a grim and pre-ordained destiny. The three leads are superb. Mulligan is not a suprise, but who knew Knightley was such an interesting actress. Garfield is the next Spider-Man, but here he shows he might be overqualified. This is science fiction that plays as pure realism, without techno gimmickry, and barely any explanation. Director Mark Romanek conjures visions of mortality via elegiac images of England’s cozy landscape and its haunting architecture. The film unfolds as a delicate mood piece, and Romanek sustains the tone of melancholy beauty with remarkable control. This is a film you don’t watch so much as inhabit.

Never Let Me Go premieres at TIFF Sept. 11 with additional screenings Sept. 13 and 18.