Never Let Me Go; A Somber, Haunting, Thoughtful Film

Hailsham is a quintessential English boarding school. Plunked in the middle of the gently rolling hills and woodlands of the English countryside, everything appears normal, even idyllic. Students attend class and learn reading, writing and arithmetic. They go to the art studio and they play outside. However, there is something decidedly odd about these children. Small peculiarities begin to accumulate. We notice the teachers’ preoccupation with the children’s health, for example. Or, even more telling, the sensor bracelets which the children wear and must scan when leaving or entering the school, or simply to go play in the yard.

We enter the movie as Kathy H., played wonderfully by Carey Mulligan, reflects on her time at Hailsham with her friends Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). She is now an adult “carer” (graduates of Hailsham – and other similar institutions throughout England – are divided into two categories: “carers” and “donors”) and remembers her class being told that “none of them would [become movie stars and] go to America… [or] work in supermarkets.” They would only live the brief life that had been determined for them. That is, to “donate” their organs, one by one, to allow other people to live longer. Now, as time is running out, Kathy and her friends are not ready to face their upcoming donations.

Never Let Me Go is a film crammed full of weighty and difficult issues. It is ideally suited for the filmgoer who loves something to chew on after the movie is over. Never Let Me Go asks us to consider our purpose in life and to what extent we are obligated to sacrifice for the greater good. It questions why, when we are not all that happy in life, we tend to continue on with the same patterns – even when escape is a very real possibility. Though the tone of Never Let Me Go is very somber, even depressing at times, it is easy to get lost in the film’s heavier themes. Do our feelings and emotions really have meaning? What are the ethical ramifications of our ability to clone new life? Do clones have souls? And the ultimate question: If we can create new life, have we replaced God?

Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) directs this engrossing think-piece based on the book by renowned author, Kazuo Ishiguro (Remains of the Day, An Artist of the Floating World). Romanek’s gorgeous production and plentiful use of symbolic imagery is evocative of the feelings and emotions his characters are experiencing. The acting performances, throughout the entire cast, are exceptionally well-handled. Not a film for everybody, Never Let Me Go is, however, a great movie for those who appreciate film for more than simple entertainment value.

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