Greetings again from the darkness. Let me say that it’s great to have Mark Romanek back directing films. His most recent feature was 2002’s One Hour Photo which I found masterful. Here he has source material from the acclaimed novel of Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day) and does an admirable job depicting this underground world of test tube-grown replacement parts. Despite the numerous opportunities for moral and philosophical statements, the film does a nice job of staying true to the novel and avoiding the soapbox.
We are introduced to Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. They are 3 friends being raised at Hailsham – a cross between an orphanage, boarding school and laboratory. The kids have no idea of their purpose in life and just go about their days as instructed – never really finding a need to question their existence … though many “stories” of the place have evolved over the years.
One day, a teacher played by Sally Hawkins breaks the code and explains to the children that their sole purpose in life is to be harvested for body parts. Sure this theme has been explored previously, but not really from the kids’ perspective. Ms. Hawkins’ character is instantly relieved of her duties by the cold-natured head mistress played perfectly by Charlotte Rampling.
Flash forward a few years and the three are played by Carey Mulligan (Kathy), Andrew Garfield (Tommy) and Keira Knightley (Ruth). We see a romance develop between Ruth and Tommy, though it’s obvious the real connection is between Kathy and Tommy. As they move to “the cottages” (a middle step in development), they learn a bit more about the curious real world.
It’s not until a few years later when we see how two of them have fulfilled their obligation, while one has delayed by playing a “carer” to donors, that we see just how bleak this existence is. The real questions are raised by Kathy as she wonders just how different their lives are than those in the real world. It seems both sides have regrets, unrealized dreams and a shortage of time. Here endeth the lesson.
This film is gathering a bit of Oscar buzz from the critics, but I must admit that I found it leaving entirely too much up to the audience. There are too many gaps to fill and not really much conflict or drama. It is finely made and well acted, but comes up short of what I would expect from a true Oscar contender.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you read the novel and/or are intrigued by the idea of creating replacement parts for humans OR you just want to see the guy replacing Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man.
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer your films on the cheery side of the emotional scale