I watched the trailer for “Never Let Me Go” when it was first released a few weeks ago, and I immediately had to read the book that the movie is based on, because I had to know what was going on in that trailer and I wasn’t waiting until September (when the movie opens) to find out.
For the past few years I had seen stacks of the novel in book stores (it always seems to be on the Recommended Fiction table at The Strand), but ignoring that sage bit of advice, I judged the book by its cover and always walked right past it. The cover, with its eerie child’s face, coupled with the sappy-sounding title let me to assume it was a story about having difficulties bearing children or about losing a child in some way, which — to put it simply — are not generally things I like to read about. So on the shelf the book remained.
Then I watched the movie trailer, and after those two and a half minutes I had a million questions. What was going on at that boarding school? Why aren’t the students familiar with the outside world? What are these “donations” that are mentioned? How can you tell if a person has a soul? Why is everything shrouded in mystery? These were all things I had to know, and I had to know now.
So I read the book, and of course it wasn’t about what I assumed it was about, because proverbs are always right (except that one about a watched pot; it WILL eventually boil, I promise). It’s hard to talk about “Never Let Me Go” without giving away major plot points, since everything is slowly revealed piece by piece throughout the story. But in a nutshell, it’s the story of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, three friends who attend a mysterious boarding school together in the isolated English countryside, but whose education is a bit unorthodox, since they know from a very young age that they aren’t like other people in the world. As they grow older and leave school they experience many of the trying life events that everyone does — unrequited love, a longing for a sense of purpose — but they have a fate that’s already been determined for them, and nothing they do is going to change it.
When watching the trailer again, I was really impressed with how everything looked and felt like it did in the book. The school, the characters, the overall tone, everything rang true to me. Which makes me cautiously optimistic that “Never Let Me Go” may be one of those rare endangered animals: A movie adaptation that remains faithful to its source. I just hope I’m not as wrong about that as I was about the book cover.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, “Never Let Me Go” will slowly reveal all on Sept. 15.
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Follow Rachel Coyne on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TheOpinionatedB.