Never Let Me Go is a hollow hunk of emo-camp masquerading as highbrow literary fare, a Stephanie Meyer novel directed by Antonioni, a film about (I think) the dehumanization of humans that purports to have a nobler stance on human values than the subhuman values it condemns. But Charlotte Rampling is in it!
Charlotte Rampling! Did you hear me? I said Charlotte Rampling!
Truthfully, La Ramp doesn’t have much to do here. It’s a bad part, written, it seems, by a sixth grader who had Henry James explained to him by another sixth grader, and I gritted my teeth through her every stilted scene. If only I had the DeLorean from Back to the Future, I would have set it to take me to that fateful moment, probably around a year and a half ago, when Charlotte was advised to accept the role of the mean old schoolmarm (oh, she’s so strict!). In no time at all, Christopher Lloyd and I would have stopped her, and then, like the sun drying out a dirty pond, her likeness would evaporate from each and every print of Never Let Me Go. Great Scott! History would never know the difference.
Charlotte Rampling! I could count the ways! The Night Porter, Stardust Memories, Under the Sand…Should I go on? I could.
There is one moment, six hours into the picture, when my darling Char – until then all smiles and English grace – lowers her eyelids in spite and pity. In that moment, she seems to grin maniacally, of course without cracking a smile. It’s chilling, more chilling in fact than any of Mark Romanek’s attempts at “chilling imagery,” and watching it, I felt my throat close up and my heart turn black. I felt – for the first and only time in the picture – I was in the company of a major actor. It was glorious.
The rest of the movie was smugly self-pitying, almost miraculously without content, and worst of all, more than a touch contemptuous of the audience’s honest, God-given craving for catharsis.
Perhaps the biggest tragedy of all is that this material might have made for fascinating viewing. But unfortunately, Never Let Me Go, with its after-the-prom ideas of love and death, is all mood, and within about twenty minutes begins to chafe horribly, like dry humping in the Mojave.