Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is a beautifully shot and masterfully directed film about the idea that we have cured all diseases and now live healthy lives much longer due to a donor program put into place. This is not a spoiler by any means if you have seen a trailer you will know that Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are clones modeled on other humans for the entire purpose being a donor later to people in need. They are kept in a subdued captivity their whole lives and most might even make it until their 18th birthday before realizing what their job will be in their short life. However, for Kathy Ruth and Tommy, a young caretaker came to their school of Hailsham and after watching the children for a while decided to tell her students what it is exactly they are here for. She was promptly fired, but the message remained.

The morals proposed in this film cross over from just being about clones, or in our current situation of Stem Cell Research and where it might lead to. I have always been a strong supporter of Stem Cell Research and this is only the second film to make me reconsider the limits to our possibilities. I still support it, but to take it as far as this film does, really has you thinking.

Hailsham is an idyllic looking English boarding school with some minor differences. One being that all students have identification bracelets that track them at all times and they must scan the bracelet when entering or leaving a building. They are only taught essential tasks such as how to order coffee from a barista to help them perform their activities of daily living outside of the school. They are essentially left unloved and left to find it in one another.

Watching children behave just as children do and knowing that they will never be given the life that they want or see in us is truly devastating. What is even more tragic is the later half of the film when Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are young adults coming to terms with their responsibilities.

Never Let Me Go spends a good amount of the film showing the three as young kids going through the motions of this school. At this point, you’re just beginning to notice the subtle differences in their lives compared to your own childhood; such as their over excitement for their gift day, which consisted of broken and thrown away toys and other collectibles that other “real” children had most likely thrown out. The young actors that portrayed young Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were spot on for the adult’s rendition of the same character. I was particularly impressed with young Kathy (Izzy Meikle-Small) and her ability to take control of each scene and really draw us in.

Once the children were older, Carey Mulligan became Kathy, Keira Knightley became Ruth and Andrew Garfield became Tommy. The story centered around Kathy and she also narrated the story. Kathy embraced her duty and when she had the chance, she took a position as a “carer” in which she would be responsible for caring for the donating person before and after each surgery. It is through this position that we really see the rough side of this idyllic idea of staying “forever young.” The prominent message of cloning as a human rights issue is very adamant through out the film. The story is close to that of the 2005 film The Island. The Island was more action and less art (and pretty cheesy) however, but both stories are told from the perspective of a clone. Interestingly enough, the word “clone” is never used in Never Let Me Go. This is very important to notice as it immediately makes them more relatable. Having them only be labeled as special helps the viewer to see themselves in their shoes. You start to wonder, “What would I do if I were her?” The first thought that popped in my head is to runaway. For all intents and purposes they are human like the rest of us, they could blend in. Perhaps they couldn’t though, they were only taught very minimal life skills and anything outside of that seemed to give the group a deer in headlights look on their faces.

They were also never trained in how to work doing anything else except to be a donor or a carer, so how would they survive on their own? Lastly, they were conditioned from a very young age that they are meant for something great in their life and if someone had previously tried to escape, they were only met with some story of a brutal death, which most likely was just fear mongering.

The science fiction part of this story is just that: part of it. The base of the film centers on a love triangle of sorts between Tommy and Ruth and Kathy. From a young age, Kathy liked Tommy, but soon enough Ruth swooped in and grabbed him. They stayed friends throughout but Kathy was obviously hurting from it for years. The love from these characters is palpable through the entirety of the film and becomes increasingly hard to take by the end.

With the brilliant acting of Carey Mulligan along side Garfield and Knightley with the stunning visuals from Director Mark Romanek, it’s impossible to convince your eyes to blink and you will most definitely find yourself on the edge of your seat at times. Romanek is another director coming from a background of shooting for music. His video of Johnny Cash’s rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” was voted best music video of all time by Guardian readers.-IMDB.

The shots were stunning photographic snapshots of three short lives entwined from a very young age. It’s one of the first stories to really shed a light on what it would look like if science went too far. It’s not a futuristic Minority Report kind of film. It looks like it does today, only everyone is much older and still functioning at high levels.

Never Let Me Go will send your heart soaring as you leave the theater thinking, “What If?” It’s a fantastic story about things that matter to us, humanity. It’s the ultimate debate topic churned into a love story that everyone can relate in some way. There is your reason to see the film right there. If that isn’t enough, go for an Oscar nomination worthy performance from Carey Mulligan.

I give Never Let Me Go 5 “Completions” out of 5

by Angela Davis

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About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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