The Woman in Black - Rachel Portman

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NEVER LET ME GO (2010) - Rachel Portman - Soundtrack Score Suite

Few films are more irritating than those that use a completely unexplained and unsubstantiated science fiction premise to pursue a narrowly focused dramatic narrative. Mark Romanek's 2010 arthouse film Never Let Me Go, based on the acclaimed Kazuo Ishiguru novel, is a tearjerker no doubt, slowly and solemnly following the doomed lives of a trio of youngsters grown from test tubes for the single purpose of serving as organ donors. There exists in society a sub-class of such youth that are harvested and eventually (and prematurely) put to death as part of a widely accepted organ replacement program that devalues the people being used within it. Complications arise when the most progressive school raising these laboratory children yields three people in a troubled love triangle, forcing society to deal with the possibility (surprise, surprise!) that these youths actually can love and have souls. In its limited initial release, Never Let Me Go was praised for tackling this premise, but many critics admitted that it's a bit too heavily introspective for its own good. The blinding problem with this otherwise compelling story is the total disregard of any addressing of the larger civil rights issues that would never allow such a public practice to exist in today's world. It's one thing to postulate that society will have degraded enough by Bladerunner to accept replicated people with an artificially limited lifespan, but for Never Let Me Go to suggest that an entire class of essentially slaves to the rest of humanity (and ones as attractive as Kiera Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield, for that matter) would be generally accepted in the 1960's and beyond is ludicrous. Regardless of America's degrading social mores, the country still has too much empathy to allow an entire class of children, whether grown in tubes or not, to be brainwashed and harvested in such a morbid fashion. Too many questions abound to make Never Let Me Go a viable film, but for those who can suspend logic for a few hours, it's powerfully acted melodrama made complete (no pun intended for those familiar with the concept) by Rachel Portman's equally depressing score. Once considered the mainstream queen of romantic music, replacing both John Barry and Georges Delerue for a short time in the 1990's, Portman has limited her composing schedule in the 2000's as she raises her family. Her musical output in recent years has been reduced to predictable assignments of her choice, usually dealing with deeply developed female characters in a dramatic setting. In this regard, nothing about what she writes for Never Let Me Go should surprise anyone. Since her work for Infamous in 2006, Portman's next five scores have all resided snugly in her stylistic comfort zone, none really as much so as Never Let Me Go. There is nothing new to be heard here, and it could be argued quite effectively that the film's dulling sense of gloom, largely maintained by extremely slow pacing, is only exacerbated by Portman's contribution. The ensemble is the composer's usual, beginning with strings and layering piano, harp, flute, clarinet, and oboe. Satisfying additions are solo violin and cello, obviously addressing societal alienation. The tone of the score is always harmonic and rooted in respective beauty, only touching upon grim atmosphere in a few cues late. The structures are repetitive and simplistic. Three themes exist, led by Portman's usual, lovely string idea similar in its flow to so many of her past efforts but still attractive none the less. The first two themes are the selling point of the score on album, and they occupy the first six cues almost exclusively. This dozen or so minutes of early material makes for an extremely and undemanding Portman listening experience, during which the highlights are the various solos. The clarinet and oboe performances in "To the Cottages" and especially "Madame is Coming" are classic Portman. (


The woman in black; music by Rachel Portman.

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