Mark Romanek‘s Never Let Me Go has been limping along in limited release. It doesn’t seem fated to break out — let’s face it. 20 days I ago I mentioned the possibility that it might have been cursed by a certain hard-working fellow whose unbridled enthusiasm for films in the early stages has tended to spell doom. I’m sorry this has happened, but if I’d been calling the shots at Fox Searchlight I would have said ixnay to any film about young people meekly submitting to a cruel early death.

At last night’s Social Network party a British journalist who absolutely loves NLMG was reminding me that the donors (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield) don’t rebel or try to escape because they’ve been conditioned from birth to never think along those lines. Those born into slavery under the Roman empire were conditioned the same way, I replied, but Spartacus and several other men broke out of gladiator school regardless and formed an army and defied Rome.

I’m sorry for preferring Spartacus to Never Let Me Go, but hot dog-eating peons like myself are always responding along these lines. NLMG is obviously a more subtle and “tasteful” and restrained film than Spartacus, but Dalton Trumbo‘s screenplay, based on Howard Fast‘s novel, is much more compelling. Why? Because unlike the donors, the gladiators refuse to just sit there and take it.