This quiet, English, alternative history movie is surprising in both its subtlety and tenor. But for a few changes, it is like almost every English drama tempered by politics and class. Whether you look at Foyle’s War, Bleak House, or the more recent Any Human Heart. This is a coming of age story in an age that never was, but that could still be.
Deftly acted by some of my favorite new performers, Carey Mulligan being the top line here for me, it has the approach of a drawing room romance with a Japanese aesthetic. The typically rich world is brush-stroked with indicators about the world outside the gated school and protected lives of the main characters. These aspects are done without comment or expectation, but they provide a wealth of thoughts to the watcher. The pace is steady but slow. The stakes high, but not life threatening. Well, not exactly.. let’s say that the threat against life is just accepted. The story carries you along in a sort of sheep-like stupor, which is oddly appropriate. Which isn’t so say that the emotions are not intense, they just are handled without strum and drang.
At its core, the story is driven by love and, despite its ultimate outcomes, remains positive if questioning. I have not read Ishiguro’s book on which this was based, and though it has remained in the tower of paper by my bed, it has definitely moved up the pile now. After which, I intend to watch this again to see what I intuited and what I missed and what may not have survived the transplant to screen.