Friday, May 13, 2011


Rated: R
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightly, Charlotte Rampling
Director: Mark Romanek
Genre: Sci-fi/drama

Adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go is a disturbing, yet poignant film set in an alternate world of the mid to late 20th century where, in human terms, the sum is worth less than its parts. The average life span has been extended to more than a hundred years, due largely to the existence of human clones who are born and bred for the specific purpose of donating their vital organs to others--sacrificing themselves for the greater good of humanity.

Ayn Rand would have a conniption.

The story line picks up at a British boarding school called Halisham. (Charlotte Rampling, who in younger days appeared naked in most of her films, shifts gears as the staid headmistress, Miss Emily.) The children there appear to be clueless about their purpose in life, until a compassionate teacher clues them in, and is subsequently fired for doing so. What I found most disturbing were the children's reactions. They do not protest. They do not run screaming for the gates. It's as if a child were told by his parents that he is being groomed to be a doctor when he grows up, and this is really what we want you to become, so under such pressure, the child accedes.

As young adults, The "donors"" are allowed to live their lives in something of a normal fashion-- until their first appointment comes due. The clones usually expire after the second or third donation because really, how many vital organs can a body get along without? This is referred to as "completion." (The euphemisms seem more relevant to present day political correctness, rather than to any bygone era.) We get the chilling sense that if the clones were to rebel against their fate, measures would be taken. But still...

The story follows three of the clones from childhood, through adolescence, and into young adulthood. There is Kathy, (Carey Mulligan) Tommy, (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightly.) A romantic triangle among them shows that they are obviously human. They have emotions. They fall in love. Yet, some of the "normal" people around them speculate as to whether or not they have souls. The parallels with real life that Never Let Me Go invokes are cause for introspection. In the past, some of us humans have viewed those of certain other cultures that appear alien to us (indeed, we refer to them as aliens) due to race, customs, religious or political differences, as almost sub-human--giving us the green light to conquer, subjugate, and do with them what we will. The most infamous example of this in recent history was called The Holocaust.

And yet, the thought occurs that a possible future world could look eerily similar to the one in the movie.

The mood of this film, so achingly melancholy to begin with , is furthered along by the elegant, haunting soundtrack from Rachel Portman.

Never Let Me Go is a movie that will stay with me for a long time.

Fate is not fate unless you are willing to accept it.

Grade: A


  1. An old concept dressed in trendy clothes. The perspective of the clones, who of course are fully human, has a fresh appeal. Their acceptance of the truths of their lives reminds me of (Ithink) Brave New World, but it could be of 1984. The creation of one child conceived as a donor is not just fiction or fornthe future. I've read of parents conceiving a child for that purpose. In that case, as opposed to the parents in this movie, one expects that natural bonds are formed with the kidneys and parents. How could that NOT occur with the clones .

    I also think of the exploitation of critters when I think about the question raised by your write-uo.

    This seems to be a flick I'd enjoy.

  2. ARLENE,
    You raise some important issues. It appeared in the film that the clones didn't have parents, but people they were "modeled" after, who were referred to as their "originals."

    Yes, I have seen reports about people having children for the purpose of helping to save an older child...the difference being that they couldn't force the younger child to be a donor. But in the film there is this ominous, unstated conclusion that it would be of no use for the clones to try to avoid their fate. One could only imagine the grisly kind of scene if they did.

    I also drew a parallel with the animals, and thought perhaps it would show through in the review--that anything that is non-human is always exploited and used for our own purposes.