I'm sure all of you have been wondering why it's been so long since my last post. I know how much you all look forward to the insights given in each installment of Movie Night and i apologize for the extended period of time between my last post. Alas tragedy has struck the house of Bence. So be forewarned the fun and fancy free journey through the contemporary film landscape you are all so accustomed to must be put on hiatus. With this i will venture into the melancholy in an effort to honor the deceased.
Quick tour through my personal life(dont worry wont be here too long). Mama Bence has recently passed away. It was a sudden and horrible shock to my family and after a beautiful ceremony the wifey, our little guy and myself are back on the east coast to sit and ruminate about our feelings. Now without wanting to get into too many details i want to make a quick point before i get into the "bulk" of this article. My mom, although proud of me, never really understood what i do for a living or even what im passionate about. She knew i liked films and reading, but i know she never understood just how important they were to my life. Along with that i know she knew that i enjoyed writing but again i know she never really understood what that meant for me as a person. One of the true regrets i have that im willing to share with the world at large is that she was never able to read my humble posts that i have provided to the offices of portemaus and through these posts maybe get an insight into one of the greatest passions of my life.. Frivolous as they may seem they definitely represent myself and my stance on film and they exist as pieces of writing that im relatively proud of. Aside from my work in college, i haven't had an output for any structured thoughts on film until Mr Funkowitz provided me with the chance earlier this year. So as i sit here dealing with various stages of grief and to be honest rather powerless to do anything of meaning i know that my mom would never want me to stop doing what i love. Aside from my family, film is one of the most important passions i have and one i was never able to share with mama bence. So without further ado i am writing this special installment of movie night for my mom. I am going to only look at one film.
"Never Let Me Go" - Mark Romanek.
Im going to be referring back to my mom here and there throughout the article, but aside from that it is back to pure film analysis from here on out.
First and foremost this film is amazing. Whether it is the subject matter and its proximity to certain events in my personal life or not the film blew me away. It is a gorgeous poetic story on mortality exploring what it means to live a full or important life. Im going to say it right now...this belongs at number 3 for 2010...although i dont know if i could knock number 10 off. It oddly enough shares some themes with Toy Story 3(my previous number 3) but thats another essay on its own.
The story follows three students at Hailsham a seemingly idyllic prep school in the English countryside, we soon learn the horrifying truth that the students are all clones being raised solely for the purposes of organ harvesting once each child has matured. The three students we follow are Ruth, Kat and Tommy and like any good story about youth there is a tragic love triangle between them. Kat and Tommy are truly in love, yet in their early years Ruth steps in and decides she will take Tommy for her own. We follow these characters through three points in their lives as children, young adults venturing out into the world and then finally in their last years as they begin the donation process.
Mark Romanek keeps his camerawork very subtle, utilizing slow camera movements and focus pulls to allow us to absorb the beauty of each image. Every scene has a timeless dreamlike quality to it. He gives you dates of when the events take place but the locales he chooses and the costume design give you a sense that these events could occur at any point in time. For a film with such a strong basis in science fiction he shoots nature very beautifully. We get shots of the children playing in forests or running down a pier or playing on a lonely beach. By doing this he strips these characters down to an almost primal existence. We see them grow up only having each other and little to no contact with the outside world. They grow up alone from the rest of the world yet we see desire and passion and ambition germinate within each of them like any other youth would experience.. Which is one of the big questions of the film...What does it mean to be human? The film seems to take the stance that humanity is defined by ones sense of importance and fulfillment. Whether it is experiencing love, achieving forgiveness, or being a supporter to other lives. The life we lead is ours to lead and however little time we have is arbitrary as long as we take advantage of it and stay true to our heart. I could go on and on about this but im going to focus in on the three characters and discuss how they all end up living full lives and when it comes time to "complete"(a very apt term given the themes of the film) as tragic as their early deaths are they all achieve something in their lifetimes that is everlasting.
Lets begin with Ruth. Ruth "stole" Tommy away from Kat early on in the film. She spends the middle part of the film essentially poking at Kat that she missed out on her chance with Tommy even though we can see through Keira's subtle performance that Ruth does not quite believe the love that tommy and her share. Ruth's actions in the third act are as heartbreaking as anything else. What we think is a last trip with her best friends is actually her chance at redemption. She knows that she stole time away from Kat by pursuing Tommy so long ago and that with what little time these characters have on earth this is sin that is sure to damn her. She has since realized the error of her ways and as her health dwindles she searches out the fabled "deferral" that they once heard stories about. She gives Tommy and Kat the chance to be together and apply for this deferral so they can enjoy the love they should have had so long ago. We see Keira disappear before our eyes and she knows that with her next donation she will likely "complete," so with tears in her eyes she begs for forgiveness because she knows that this was her great purpose in life. She needed to fix the wrong that she had incurred upon Tommy and Kat so long ago.
Next up is Tommy. Tommy is played to perfection by Andrew Garfield, the innocence and immaturity regarding emotions within him is all over his face. Tommy is hope personified. As he grows up he begins to realize that legacy is important and he begins to paint. Something that every other kid did at Hailsham he realizes he missed out on a chance to leave a bit of his soul behind so he throws himself into his art. When he finds himself with his two best friends from his youth the love he felt for Kat comes roaring back, and with the opportunity that Ruth gives them to go profess their love in the hopes that it will get them a deferral he puts his all into that. So when the sad truth about deferrals comes to light his breakdown is a harrowing performance. It is with the same innocence as a child that Tommy as an adult doesnt realize at first that he had achieved importance. Not only was he able to experience true love, as a donor he was content that he was helping people. His line fits perfectly, "who knew that kat would end up a great carer and me a great donor. And he is good at it, he is at the same amount of donations as Ruth and he is strong as ever. Not only is he the most hopeful and optimistic character in the film it is through his donations that he gives hope to others.
Then we come to Kat. She is our guide through the film and the film unfolds from her point of view. I've mentioned the love story between the three characters plenty so with Kat I want to discuss her work as a "carer." A carer is about as literal as it sounds, they provide care to those going through the donation process. Kat in understanding her role in life has decided to spend what little time she has as an adult helping others go through her own inevitable fate. For kat this was her purpose, she had so much love that she had to share it with everyone. In the middle part of the film she confuses these feelings for lust and searches out her "original" in porn magazines.
It is in this latter part of the film that Kat is shown to be the strongest of them all. She has perservered through everything by understanding who she is and choosing to take the path that gives her the most satisfaction despite knowing her ultimate fate.
It is this idea that each of these characters lives a full life albeit far too short that inspires me and what reminds me of my mom. Each of these characters finds redemption, or love, or purpose and accomplishes that before their time comes to "complete." My mom was far too young, but in her short time here she touched so many lives much like Kat. Most of her adult life was spent trying to help and inspire others to achieve their full potential, and in her death i have received countless messages each telling me the same thing. That my mom is the reason they went to college, or became a teacher, or whatever dream they might have had. Like these characters my mom had a purpose that she followed and she excelled at what she did. No one can say she wasnt a success, and even though she was taken from all of us far too soon she led a full life with what time she had. Not only did she live a life full of purpose she lived long enough to see her son begin his life with his own family. Something these characters were never destined to do. I'm sure i'll continue to see parallels between any film dealing with mortality for quite some time but this film resonated with me on such a powerful level. As it is purpose and passion are huge themes for me(see any article ive written on Aronofsky) so to see them presented in such a simplistic and beautiful way as it is here seemed like the perfect film to analyze in dedication to Mama Bence.
I want to talk about one specific shot before i finish up. Towards the end of the film the characters are on the beach and we see an old ship that has been washed ashore for what looks like years. The image itself is beautiful, a single decaying boat alone against the backdrop of the beach, but in analyzing the image i feel it is a strong metaphor for the theme of the movie. Here we have a boat out of its natural element, yet so close to where it belongs and its just falling apart piece by piece as the years pass by. Our young characters live the same way, just outside of society yearning to be a part of "normalcy" and again falling apart piece by piece with each passing year. Who knows perhaps im reading far too into it.
I know i talked a lot about the film but i still urge you to check it out, Romanek really stepped up his game from One Hour Photo and showed us just how amazing a filmmaker he is.
DEDICATED TO MARIA DE LA CRUZ ROMO
one last thought:
Top Ten Films From Mama Bence(rough estimate)
10. Iron Man(i was just as surprised but we saw BOTH together)
9. Anything with Johnny Depp(thats my mom)
8. The Talented Mr Ripley
7. Stand and Deliver
6. Desperado(she always had a thing for Banderas)
5. American Me
4. Toy Story 3(thanks to RC)
3. Mi Vida Loca
1. Mi Familia - Anytime there was any confusion on what to watch she would always choose this film. Not only did it a tell a story chronicling the lives of an immigrant Mexican family, it starred Esai Morales, Edward James Olmos, and Jimmy Smits. I'm pretty sure this film was made with my mom in mind. Don't worry mom Riley will definitely be forced to watch this as often as you forced me to see this.