Romy Shiller

Never Let Me Go

In Film, review on October 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

Warning – Spoilers ahead.

Director: Mark Romanek
Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro (novel), Alex Garland (screenplay)
Starring: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield

Cloning, wow. Who would have thought? There should be a list of people who can and cannot clone themselves. – Ted Danson

So interesting. Science-Fiction set in our recent past. No UFOs or time-travel just cloning and ethics. No action sequences, no explosions, no decapitations or anyone lost in space. I liked that it was unique. This film stayed with me long after the closing credits rolled.

Never Let Me Go is based on a novel by Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The title comes from a song on an American cassette tape called Songs After Dark by fictional singer Judy Bridgewater.

Plot: As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits themIMDb

The boarding school is called Hailsham and there is an emphasis on keeping the kids very healthy – initially we are not told the reason. They are taught anatomy – that’s it. We find out that they are all ‘donors’ – cloned for one purpose only, to donate their organs. As an adult, Kathy works as a “carer,” someone who cares for donors as their organs are extracted, leading to ultimate “completion” (death.) When she is scheduled to donate her organs, she stops ‘caring.’

Ruth and Kathy are best friends. Kathy is in love with Tommy from a very young age but Ruth usurps him as they get older. Garland says,”Ruth is sexually powerful and voracious and Kathy is not, and that’s actually why she has Tommy, that she has that power available to her, because Tommy loves Kathy. But it’s Ruth’s forwardness that allows her to interject between the two, and in film that kind of nuance is possible… (Moviefone) Before Ruth “completes” she informs Kathy and Tommy that they should have always been together.

Kathy and Tommy go to the defunct school’s art gallery curator in hopes of getting a few years together – a donor extension. Tommy believes that their artwork speaks a truth from their souls. Their love is genuine. They are informed that the artwork was to establish IF they had souls.

As it stands today, “many countries have legally prohibited human cloning or are in the process of doing so, and various institutions, including the United Nations and the European Parliament, are calling for a worldwide ban on all forms of human cloning. “ Source

The people that I saw the film with were astonished that Kathy and Tommy did not run away. I feel that Kathy and Tommy had a whole other belief-system, a different reality. It might be satisfying to have a happy ending or closure but that was not what this film was about. “Romanek said he’s often asked why the young characters don’t rebel against the circumstances they’re forced into. He says he thinks the alternative, to stay and accept your lot — is far more interesting.”

The film elicited a great discussion about ethics and frankly, these days, that’s rare.

A Telluride Reviewer, Peter Sciretta says, “The film is emotionally powerful, a haunting meditation about love, death, humanity and acceptance. The performances are all top notch — fantastic performances across the board, but Carey Mulligan is center stage. Mulligan deserves a nomination, which if it happens, would be the second year in a row. The film is emotionally powerful, a haunting meditation about love, death, humanity and acceptance. The performances are all top notch — fantastic performances across the board, but Carey Mulligan is center stage. Mulligan deserves a nomination, which if it happens, would be the second year in a row.”

This film makes you think. The acting, directing, cinematography and editing were great. This is a very worthwhile film to see.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online.

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