What would it be like to be born in a science lab, raised without parents or siblings, and taught that your only purpose in life was to donate as many of your working organs to another person that you’ve never met? Never Let Me Go is an emotionally powerful film that tries to tackles these questions and understand the nature and consequences of a society that condones human cloning.
Never Let Me Go is based on the popular novel of the same name by author Kazuo Ishiguro. The story revolves around three friends, Kathy (played by Carey Mulligan), Tommy (played by this year’s The Amazing Spider-Man), and Ruth (played by Kiera Knightly) who also happen to be human clones. They are raised in a boarding-school type of environment and taught from a very young age that the most important thing they will ever do is donate their vital organs to their human counterparts (who they will never meet). Because of the inhererntly morbid nature of their life’s purpose, the clones are not educated the same way humans are. Instead, they are taught how to be good carers or doners and told simultaneously how special they are and how different they are from “normal” people. They are kept in a youthful cocoon, never getting the emotional support they need to fully mature into adults because they will never become adults. When Kathy realizes that she may be in love with Ruth’s mate, Tommy, a love triangle is created and these three characters must find the solution to their problem together, all while they struggle to truly understand their place in the world.
There are many things to love about Never Let Me Go. The film is gorgeous to look at with the cinematography by Adam Kimmel playing a major role in the tone of the film. In particular, the way that Hailsham (the picturesque boarding school that the main characters grow up in) is portrayed through the use of light and shadow makes it feel both inviting and ominous at the same time. Kimmel’s use of photographic techniques sets the mood for the story and makes the audience feel like they’re trapped in a dream where everything feels a little bit off somehow. It’s this feeling that provides the backbone for a story that makes you feel both happiness and sadness in equal amounts.
Those of you who enjoyed Ishiguro’s source novel will appreciate the fact that screenwriter Alex Garland (famous for his partnership with Danny Boyle on films like The Beach and 28 Days Later) creates a very faithful adaptation here. He does not shift very far in plot or thematic content from the ground first paved by Ishiguro. In fact, the film is so different in style and content from Garland’s previous work that it’s quite admirable to see how easily he is able to hide his trademark style in favour of a more subtle approach.
The acting is uniformly excellent in Never Let Me Go. Though the story is really an ensemble piece about the three main friends; Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, the lead character is Kathy, who is played with quiet intensity by Carey Mulligan (from Wall Street 2). Mulligan’s ability to act with her eyes is evident in several scenes which are so emotionally powerful, that she is able to make you feel without even saying a single line. Both Kiera Knightly and Andrew Garfield also flex their acting muscles by creating three-dimensional characters that we not only sympathize with but that we cheer for, hoping that their ultimate fate will be better that what we think it will be.
The only drawback to Never Let Me Go is the film’s pacing. It is decidedly slow; void of anything closely resembling an action scene, and with the sometimes depressing thematic content, can feel even longer than it really is. It’s one of those movies that you have to be in a certain type of mood to enjoy. For those of you that appeal to emotionally intense dramas like this, you won’t be disappointed by the way this story is told and the amount of artisitc value that it has. At times, it is truly poignent and deeply touching.
Never Let Me Go will wear you down emotionally and turn you inside out. But in the end, you’ll be thankful for the ride. Fans of the original novel will be delighted by the faithfulness to the source material, while those who’ve never read it will appreciate the emotional resonance of this truly powerful film. The movie is available on DVD and Blu-Ray at most major entertainment stores, so check it out today!
**** out of *****
Never Let Me Go is 103 minutes long and rated “R”