We all are, on some level, fearful of growing old. We may realistically look at our advancing age and realize that with that age comes wisdom and such, but especially as we watch our parents getting older we worry about our own mortality and what the aging process will do to us. But very few of us know the date and hour of when we will pass or, for that matter, have much of an idea of what exactly the future holds for us as we continue down the road of our lives.
Some people who more or less do, though, are the characters in the new movie Never Let Me Go. Based on the novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro, the story is set in an alternate world of dystopian Britain and follows three characters, Ruth (Keira Knightly), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Kathy (Carey Mulligan) who are all students at the Hailsham boarding school. But this isn’t an ordinary school since this is for artificial humans – clones that have been created to serve as organ donors for specific people. That means each student knows that they won’t live beyond a certain age, even if that knowledge is largely seen as the stuff of rumor. The story follows the characters from a young age through them becoming young adults and chronicles the relationships between the three, which is sometimes wonderfully close and at other times is quite strained.
So the movie promises to be a more subdued and emotional take on the question of what makes someone human and other related issues than other more bombastic movies such as The Island that covered similar thematic ground but which were more interested in chase sequences than meditative ponderings.
The movie’s poster is quite beautiful to look at but doesn’t really hint at or explain the film’s story at all. Two people run down a pier past benches and toward, symbolically, the open sea. So we get a bit of a suggestion here that it’s all about freedom and escape. The way the title seems to increasingly break apart toward the end also suggests some theme of more and more problems emerging as time goes on. But other than that it’s all about creating a mood here, which the poster does decently. It’s not going to attract a mainstream audience who likes everything spelled out for them but it should appeal to those seeking higher-reaching fare, especially in conjunction with…
Wow is the trailer a trippy journey. We start out being introduced to a young woman who’s already pondering the end of her life. Then we flashback to kids playing who are afraid of breaking very strict rules. It’s then that we move to Hailsham, the private school where these children are going. But it’s an odd school, one where the kids have to wave RFID chips in their hands on a scanner every time they enter a room and are told ominously that their lives will come to an end after their third “donation,” though what that is is never explained or expanded upon.
Eventually the flashbacks that have focused on a group of three friends give way to those same three friends now more grown-up. Two of them are in love, a situation which simultaneously causes strife within the group and also gives hope since there may be a “special arrangement” for Hailsham students who can prove they’re really in love.
With all the questions that are provoked by the trailer, the only thing that comes through are a nice sense of visual style from the movie and the notion that the story is about embracing the life you have and accepting your place in the world. What the trailer doesn’t even hint at is how all that plays out. Not a complaint – just an observation.
The movie’s official website is heavy on the social and the background information in Ishiguro’s novel.
Beginning with the content in the main section at the top, the first area is the “Synopsis,” which focuses on explaining just what the movie is about (though it, like most of the press materials, leaves out any discussion of clones) and who the people are that have created it. That latter point is expended upon in the “Cast & Crew” section that’s next up.
“Downloads” has the three character posters, a collection of some of the artwork that plays a part in the movie’s story, a promotional poster for the movie’s organ donor program and a case file for Mulligan’s character Kathy. So it’s an interesting mix of material from within and outside of the movie’s universe.
You’ll just find the movie’s Trailer in the “Videos” section and there are a scant four stills in the “Photos” area.
“Ask Ishiguro” opens up a new site where people can ask questions of the author with the promise that a select handful will be answered by him via video post.
This being a Fox Searchlight film, the rest of the page has a lot of good stuff. There’s a steady stream of updates in the “In The News” section about how the movie is being received at film festivals and more and next to that is a bevy of information on the source novel.
There are also widgets on the page that show the stream of conversation happening on Searchlight’s Twitter and Facebook pages, which of course have been focuses on this movie for the last couple months.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
I may have seen a handful of online banners for the movie that pulled their design from the look of the movie’s primary poster but that’s about it. No TV spots were created that I’m aware of and this isn’t exactly the sort of movie that attracts a ton of promotional partners.
Media and Publicity
Outside of the release of the early marketing materials, the first bit of publicity and buzz came with the announcement the film would be featured at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. It also debuted at the Telluride Film Festival prior to that, an appearance that started off some positive buzz for the movie.
Late in the game there was a feature on just how much care (New York Times, 9/8/10) the director, Mark Romanek, put in to not distorting the vision of the original novel with lots of nods to the sci-fi nature of the story and how he deliberately paced the film to make the relationships the primary focus.
I think it’s shrewd that the campaign completely excises any mention of the science fiction aspects of the story. Yes, that could lead to some audience confusion when people do see the movie, but that information is widely available on the web if people are interested in seeking it out and those who have read the source book are already hip to that. So better to sell it to the larger audience pool as a thoroughly English tale of love, loss and mortality than to have them dismiss it on its face because of a lot of talk about clones and such.
The campaign that has been put together is nicely constructed and does, issues of clones aside, sell the movie very well. That sort of washed out, hazy look is immediately identifiable as being associated with high-end art films, especially those set in the English countryside. And everything about what’s shown off in the trailers and online says that the three lead performances gel nicely and carry the weight of the story between them.
This is also a nice example of carrying over brand consistency from one component to the other, as it’s immediately obvious that the posters, trailer and website all flow together with a unified look and feel, which makes this a very good campaign for a movie that looks more than a little intriguing.