Title: Never Let Me Go
Genre: Romance, Drama, Science Fiction
Director(s): Mark Romanek
Writer(s): Alex Garland, Kazuo Ishiguro (novel)
Cast: Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice, An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, Atonement), Izzy Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe, Ella Purnell, Charlotte Rampling (The Verdict), Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley search for “Possibles” in this romance with a sci-fi twist.
Summary: Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan) is a young girl living in a seemingly perfect orphanage in an alternate version of England where medical breakthroughs have served to extend the average human life well past 100 years. Along with her best friend, Ruth (Keira Knightley), and crush, Toby (Andrew Garfield), she lives happily and dreams big, driven by her headmistress’s stress on the importance of art. However, her dreams are suddenly dashed when she learns a dark secret: no one in the orphanage is actually an orphan at all, but a clone created for only one purpose: organ harvesting. Upon reaching adulthood, she learns, each clone will be legally required to begin donating vital organs to “normal” people, until he or she “completes” i.e. dies and can give no more. Left blinded by the fact that she is merely a walking life support system, Kathy turns to Toby for comfort, only to find that he has fallen for Ruth and considers her merely a friend. As the trio grows up and leaves the orphanage for a small village for clones, they approach what they know will be the ends of their lives, and their relationships begins to strain. With purpose taken from her short life, Kathy yearns desperately for Toby, knowing that time for love is quickly running out.
In the world of Never Let Me Go, many share a single fate.
Review: Having enjoyed the book and being a fan of Mark Romanek’s work with One Hour Photo, I was incredibly excited for this film, but only just got my hands on it recently. Though it doesn’t necessarily live up to its source material (not many movies do), this film is entirely capable of standing on its own and delivering the same message with almost as much power. The science fiction aspect of the film, I found, is made quite realistic and serves as a dark backdrop for the three main characters as they (ironically) live with same kind of dread the people they’re curing would have had before the discovery of cloning. “If you ask people to return to darkness, the days of lung cancer, breast cancer, motor neuron disease, they’ll simply say no,” the headmistress tells them, delivering a very powerful point: if humans had a chance to live as long as possible, most wouldn’t care how this end is reached or who is hurt in the process. The fragility of human life and unfairness that can be inflicted upon us is made quite clear throughout the film and few questions are left unanswered, with the help of a simple soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography.
What truly carries the story, though, is not fancy camerawork or music, but the acting of Mulligan, Knightley, and Garfield. They aptly portray the many ways that people can respond to unfairness and the knowledge of imminent death, and create characters that are so three-dimensional you could practically reach out and touch them. Never does a line come off unbelievably, even when delivered by the younger actors in the film (who are really quite good), and all anyone watching can help to do is ask “what would I do if that was me?”
Overall, this film that definitely achieves its goal at raising “what ifs” and forcing its viewers to realize how, in the end, no one ever feels like they’ve been given enough time, leading them to grab selfishly for more. How much life do we deserve, truly, if we’re willing to take another’s? My single complaint about this film is that, in the end, it is nothing but severely depressing.