(out of 5)
A medical breakthrough mid-twentieth century has allowed scientists to clone human beings and raise them as bodies with organs available for harvesting. Growing up in special schools, these children are given a hollow education and a false sense of social construct before one of their teachers (Sally Hawkins) has an emotional breakdown and reveals to them that, unlike other children, they will not grow up to find their place in the world as adults. Three of these youngsters have the deadline of their “donations” press up against the painful drama of their love triangle. Carey Mulligan has been in love with Andrew Garfield since their childhood, but Keira Knightley got her claws into him years earlier when they were young. When a rumour begins to be spread that the children of this program can get a deferral of their donations if they couple up and prove true love to their superiors, it sets in motion of chain of events that are alternately fascinating and heartbreaking. We soon begin to see burning hearts begging for as much time as possible to love and live thanks to their days being numbered, and eventually, we as an audience start to wonder if we shouldn’t remember that the same is true for ourselves. Mark Romanek’s gorgeous tone poem, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, plays like an intellectual version of The Island, with all three leads giving superb performances and Charlotte Rampling, the aforementioned Hawkins and Nathalie Richard (outstanding as the school’s art teacher) chillingly powerful in supporting roles. While its narrative doesn’t have enough scope to make it a great film, and its conclusion overstates the message to an insulting degree, there are moments of pathos that make it well worth watching: the scene where a couple from another school reveal their knowledge of deferrals and their desire to apply is one of the film’s most moving sequences. Romanek does a magnificent job of creating a science-fiction atmosphere without ever being gimmicky about it: there’s an uncomfortable level of surreality throughout that always remains just beyond your descriptive grasp, and it allows the situation to be that much more horrific.
Directed by Mark Romanek
Cinematography by Adam Kimmel
Music by Rachel Portman
Production Design by Mark Digby
Film Editing by Barney Pilling
Toronto International Film Festival: 2010