Soundtrack Review: NEVER LET ME GO

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
October 12th, 2010

Rating: 4/5

The haunting story of NEVER LET ME GO is felt in every note of composer Rachel Portman’s (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, CHOCOLAT) score. It is the story of the tragic nature of life, which applies to us all, but may have a different timeline for others.

I fell in love with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel (on which the film is based) and was really looking forward to seeing it brought to the screen. I was optimistic after seeing the trailer for the film whose colors, tone, and casting choices all seemed spot on. But more than anything, I was excited to hear the score that would bring this story to life.

Portman leans towards the use of strings to create her score, a perfect choice as they can transition from sounding optimistic to melancholy to just plain beautiful. From the excitement surrounding the “Bumper Crop” to the remorse of “The Worst Things I Ever Did," strings drive the emotional resonance in each. The presence of strings heard throughout each track is much like the metaphorical string that ties our three main characters together.

Although the score is almost a story unto itself, it also keeps to the background when quiet or even silence is necessary to the moment playing on screen. At the same time, the full-bodied complexities of the arrangements allow the score sweep in when neither words nor silence are enough. As Ishiguro’s story poses some lofty questions, Portman’s score does well to fill in the moments when there are no answers to explain those bigger questions at hand.

Only two of the tracks on the soundtrack do not follow the standard all-instrumental score. The first, “Hailsham School Song," features a group of school children singing the school song as is heard in the film. Usually the sound of a group of children singing in this style is a bit eerie, but knowing the fates of this particular group of children makes it all the more unsettling.

The second, “Never Let Me Go,"  also stands as the title of both the book and the film. Kathy H.’s (Carey Mulligan) prized possession is a cassette tape titled Songs After Dark featuring songs by Judy Bridgewater. Although the singer is a fictional character, Portman creates Kathy’s favorite track, “Never Let Me Go," to sound just as Ishiguro describes in his book, “slow and late night and American.”

I loved that even though the subject matter of the film flutters on the fringes of science fiction, both the book and the film present it as a drama that could have taken place at any point in time. The score and music follow suit as the emotions dealt with throughout the story are not bound to any one moment in time, creating a collection that will surely become a classic.

Book-to-film adaptations are always difficult since each person visualizes the story in their own way as they are reading and it becomes nearly impossible to re-create each individual’s vision on screen. Romanek’s film lived up to my expectations and Portman succeeded in creating a musical atmosphere that played to what my ear had subconsciously wanted to hear while reading.

This soundtrack is available through Varese Sarabande.

1. “The Pier”
2. “Main Titles”
3. “Bumper Crop”
4. “To The Cottages”
5. “The Boat”
6. “Madame Is Coming”
7. “Ruth’s Betrayal”
8. “Making Tea”
9. “Evening Visit”
10. “Kathy And Tommy”
11. “Kathy Watches Behind Screen”
12. “Life As A Carer”
13. “Kingsfield Recovery Centre”
14. “Unseen Tides”
15. “The Worst Thing I Ever Did”
16. “Souls At All”
17. “We All Complete”
18. “Hailsham School Song”
19. “Never Let Me Go”

All songs composed by Rachel Portman.

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