Sunday, November 06, 2011

Netflix Catchup - "The Kids Are All Right," "Never Let Me Go"

OK, deep breath. As usual, I’ve fallen behind with my random comments about films seen via Netflix. So here are a couple to get the catch-up started:

The Kids Are All Right. For me, this one was a mixed bag. This is my own ignorance talking, but I don’t know if this was meant to be an accurate representation of a same-sex relationship with children, or a commentary on what others perceive such a relationship to be like. As a case in point – the scene where the couple is watching male gay porno – awkward moment for the kids, or inside joke? Either way, I’m not sure the scene worked.

I found Annette Bening’s character to be almost insufferable, and am a little surprised that she got all the acting kudos over Juliette Moore. But overall, I thought the best performances by far were from the two kids, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson. Or maybe it’s just that their characters felt less forced and better written. Either way, they felt like real people, while Bening and Moore rarely advanced beyond case studies.

I thought how the film handled Mark Ruffalo’s character was probably its greatest weakness. I’m not arguing that he was a guy with a ton of depth, but neither did I think that he deserved the ending that he got (I won’t say anything more about it to avoid a spoiler). The way he was used, it was obvious that he was little more than a plot device to advance the story about the two female leads, and their relationship with their kids. Which would be OK, except that the middle third of the film left the viewer with the expectation that there might be difficult choices ahead for the entire family. Instead, those choices were avoided almost entirely.

Never Let Me Go [Spoiler Alert]. In a word, haunting. Based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the movie follows three characters – played by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as young adults – who are raised in what appears to be a loving, supportive boarding school. Well, yes – but there is a catch. It turns out that the residents of the school are in fact clones, who are being raised for organ harvesting when they reach adulthood. When they eventually die, as they all do, they are said to have reached “completion.”

There are a couple of plot points that drive the narrative – one is the love triangle between the three main characters, and the other is the notion that “deferral” might be an option. In other words, if the clones are able to demonstrate that they are in love and do indeed have souls (a point driven home by the prominence of an art gallery at the boarding school – it is suggested that this is how such decisions are made), they can be allowed to live a normal life. The former story is fairly standard fare, albeit done tastefully and well; and the latter is poignant, in that we really know how things are going to end up well before the end actually comes. What lends the film its power is its premise, which is executed well and results in the adjective I mentioned earlier. I would not go so far as to call “Never Let Me Go” a classic, but it is certainly thought-provoking. And it sticks with you.

No comments: