2/5 British independent film Never Let Me Go, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, has  gone largely unnoticed by American audiences, undeservingly. The cinematic incarnation—directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo), featuring Carey Mulligan (An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), and Keira Knightley (Atonement)—enjoys far less praise and recognition than its highly acclaimed narrative source which Times Magazine named “Best Novel of 2005.”

A young blond woman watches through the glass of an operating room as doctors prepare a man for surgery. A brief exposition of the alternate reality which hosts this somber romance explains: in the year 1952, advancements in medical science have allowed humans to live past 100. This remarkable longevity, however, is achieved through the immolation of ‘donors’ by sacrificing their vital organs to more fortuitous recipients. The story is told in three chapters relating to various life-stages. In childhood, as part of the incipient wave of donors, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy grow up together in Hailsham boarding school, an idyllic setting where the three form fond memories and close bonds. As they continue into adolescence, the looming shadow of their compulsory donations and the rigours of romantic rivalry divide the three until they reunite years later as adults.

Director Romanek captures beautifully both the air of nostalgia in Hailsham and the hopelessness of the world beyond thanks to a well-adapted screenplay, great acting, and tasteful camera filters. Though the story was not originally written for the screen, it plays out well as a film-narrative. The conservative and understated dialogue offsets the emotionally weighty theme, at least for the most part. At times the slightly-sepia-toned world feels drab, monochromatic, and dull but the film would lack the gloom of perpetual sympathy if it lost the overcast color-drainage.

Of all the good things Never Let Me Go has to offer, Carey Mulligan’s performance has to be one of the best; her portrayal of Kathy the unassuming, unaffected admirer comes off as absolutely effortless. Andrew Garfield as Tommy delivers a moving performance as the fragile, fought-for love-interest. Acting is easily the highest scoring category for the film; no holes can be found in the performance by the entire cast of child and adult actors. Short-lived guardian Ms. Lucy (Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky), in a touching emotional speech, enlightens her credulous students with a heavy heart of their short and pre-determined existence; the defining childhood experiences of the three friends are also portrayed skillfully by a well-cast and talented young trio.

A likely reason Never Let Me Go never achieved mainstream success or popularity is because its MPAA rating, R for Restricted, prevents it from reaching its true target audience, teenagers. The premise, the romance, the drama, the lesson, all seem a bit juvenille for adult viewership but perfectly tailored for an adolescent audience looking for a sensitive and emotional movie; that being said, Never Let Me Go is still a worthwhile watch for anyone in a sentimental or nostalgic mood, and the only adaptation of Ishiguro’s celebrated novel.