Carey Mulligan (An Education), Keira Knightley (Atonement) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) star in this sci-fi drama, an adaptation of the highly acclaimed Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Opens 17 March nationwide but there are sneak previews beginning today. Click here for session info.
Whilst it nods to speculative literary sci-fi such as 1984 and A Handmaid’s Tale, Mark Romanek’s autumnal Kazuo Ishiguro adaptation has more in common with Atonement and The Go Between – elegies for an England about to be steamrollered, unknowingly, into oblivion.
Set in an alternative present where disease has been mysteriously eradicated, it follows Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley, three residents of a special 'preparatory' school, as their friendships bloom and wither through the years. Like WWII soldiers on the frontline, they await their preordained fates in ignorance, and the film thrums with the shell-shocked austerity of that era. "Maybe none of us really understand what we live through…" concludes Mulligan, whose astonishingly assured performance seems to draw on centuries lived out in the cold.
Lack of awareness is the key here; the protagonists’ sad little lives pivoting on misunderstandings, immature assessments of the not-so-brave new world around them, and things left unsaid. As they move from childhood straight to decrepitude, much of the drama happens at arm’s length, and the grim realities of their lab-rat existences are couched in euphemisms where, for example, death becomes "completion" and hospices "recovery centres". It's a hymn to mute incomprehension, a paean to chances missed, but so all-consuming is the characters’ emptiness it begins to deflate the entire enterprise, and the art-cinema averse will begrudge the lack of emotional release. Though sensitively assembled by talented professionals, this is a film that wants to cry, but can’t remember how.