Never Let Me Go is a science fiction film. That’s not a spoiler, since it becomes apparent in the opening moments of the film, but that’s something that you might not be able to pick up on from the advertising. I won’t go into great detail about why it’s sci-fi, since that might be slightly spoiler-ish, but I will say that there are no ray guns, rocketships or three-headed monsters to be found here. This movie is a re-affirmation that science fiction can be effective when entirely conceptual and stripped of it’s token iconography.

In this case, imagine a period piece coming of age story, set in an alternate history, complete with divergent scientific advancements (ala Steampunk, or any of a number of sci-fi stories in which the Nazis win WWII), and married to a traditional british love triangle story. Add to that mix a great sense of foreboding regarding the aforementioned sci-fi elements, and you get something bleak, hopeful, intelligent and beautiful. No chase scenes. No real direct discussion of the sci-fi elements. This isn’t a story about some distant, far off future, and it’s fabulous inhabitants. This is the story of us.

Planet Of The Apes, the original classic, is a movie that has plenty of chases, rocketships and fantastic creatures. But much like Never Let Me Go, it isn’t some myopic view of one particular concept, but rather an exploration and evocation of several themes and concepts, allowing you the viewer to fill in your own answers to the questions at hand. It’s not a warning to beware of a world in which apes become the dominants species, but instead uses that concept to explore our current world’s irrational viewpoints on religion, war, science, class systems, racism, gender roles, the law, etc. Never Let Me Go functions in a similar fashion. While watching the film, I found myself thinking about the nature of our lives; how we take the time that we have on this earth for granted; and to what degree we allow others to shape our destiny for us. These are some heavy thoughts, and ultimately Never Let Me Go affected me in a powerful way.

I understand the mixed reaction this movie is getting, but I don’t agree with it. Like the movie or not, one has to recognize the immense talent and craft on display here, from the acting, to the direction, to the music and photography. My favorite film of the year so far.