Never Let Me Go is based on a novel of the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro which requires its readers to decipher a story that is never fully examined. What we have here is a story taking place in a roughly contemporary (1978-94) England, a country (and presumably, world) radically changed by medical advances that did not happen in our world. Or…maybe. The most fascinating element of this film to me, and I’m sure the most infuriating to many viewers, is that we never get a really clear picture as to just what the technology is, how things have changed. As adults in 1985 (played by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield respectively), tensions rise when they’re sent to a residential community that grants them more exposure to the outside world; not only do they not know how to cope in such a place (they’re incapable, for example, of deciding for themselves what to order in a restaurant), they’re also at odds over their needs and desires, Tommy’s physical attraction to Ruth seemingly upstaged by his emotional attraction to Kathy.
Never Let Me Go is a movie that really asks the key question of “What Makes Us Human?” By looking at that question thru the three cloned humans and their abbreviated lives and experiences, we get this sort of abstract view of ourselves through their eyes. As for acting, we get to watch three very promising young actors do some wonderful work. The most surprising is Keira Knightley who gives such an honest portrayal I forgot I was watching Knightley.
The film captures the look and spirit of the novel brilliantly. The actors are magnificent. The wardrobe and settings are all dead on. I don’t see how anything about the film could have been improved. It is a sci-fi film without any of the hardware. The futuristic concepts are never explicitly spelled out. You have to bring your brain to this movie. This film relies heavily on its secrets, in order to be effective. I walked away from the film wondering: How far is too far in the name of science? Where should we morally draw the line in our efforts to eradicate disease or extend the lives of people?
It is a very well done and emotionally draining movie. The subject matter is not that far fetched and could someday happen. I think the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around was the concept that in the 80’s and 90’s there would be a plausible scenario where people were designated solely for organ donation; and that it was okay. I was practically screaming, “Why don’t you just cut off the bracelets and leave?” I mean really? That is the biggest problem I had with the movie, because all of the characters seemed a little too comfortable and accepting of their circumstances and eventual fate, no one tried to run or fight. Also, it bothers me a bit that organ’s transplants which has saved so many people’s lives in the real world, here are made to look so sinister. In the end, I suppose Never Let Me Go doesn’t explicitly announce how you should feel, it allows viewers to fill in many of the gaps on their own.