October 8, 2010 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Parts lacking in 'Never Let Me Go'

From left, Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are born to donate their organs in “Never Let Me Go.” (Fox Searchlight)

You can probably let "Never Let Me Go" go.

Not that it's a bad film. The actors — especially Carey Mulligan — are fine, and there's a nice English countryside look to all of it.

But the premise — sort of a science fictiony "Remains of the Day" romantic triangle — is oddly cold and detached, as if director Mark Romanek and screenwriter Alex Garland couldn't decide precisely how to interpret Kazuo Ishiguro's popular novel and so they just laid it out flat. And flat it feels.

The place is England, and human life has been extended through organ transplants. A special group of children has been born to donate their organs when they grow up. A bunch of them are being schooled at a remote country estate.

A triangle forms between Kathy (Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and the placid Tommy (Andrew Garfield); with Kathy falling for Tommy and Ruth soon stealing him away.

They all mature and go their separate ways with Tommy and Ruth eventually donating their parts while Kathy takes on a caregiver-counselor role before going under the knife.

In her last moments, the guilty Ruth reunites Tommy and Kathy in the hopes that their expression of true love might earn them an extension from the powers that be. And so a dream is born.

The sheer listlessness of the future donors — they're not drugged, apparently — seems hard to believe. You want my liver, no problem, take it.

True, reserved passion is a British trait, but the urge for survival might make even the most polite Brit spill some tea. The lack of fire in "Never Let Me Go" just doesn't feel real.

tlong@detnews.com (313) 222-8879

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