DVD Review - Never Let Me Go

Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly & Andrew Garfield
This movie is set in an alternate past where there are British children who are reared in a private, boarding school for the explicit purpose of harvesting their organs for transplants to people who need them. It's never stated, but it's assumed that these children are parent-less clones. Even though the film presents this sci-fi premise with serious moral implications, director Mark Romanek keeps that as an undercurrent. The real tide here is the love story between two of these children.
Carey Mulligan (An Education) stars as Kathy, the narrator of the story. She's a young, British woman looking back at her time at the boarding school named Hailsham. While there, she starts to fancy a tall, shy, awkward boy named Tommy, played by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network). They begin to gravitate toward each other, but their budding romance is interrupted by a jealous Ruth, played by a sexy yet creepy Keira Knightly (Pirates of the Caribbean).
For a while, the children aren't aware of their fates. They aren't aware that once they reach a certain age, they will be called like men drafted into the military, but, instead of fighting in a war, they have to undergo surgery to have organs removed, sometimes vital organs removed, in order to give to some person whom they've never met nor will ever meet.
This movie is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro who also penned the source material for the Oscar-nominated film The Remains of the Day (1993). Not having read Ishiguro's book, I don't know if the idea of slavery is introduced, but that's the next best comparison besides a military draft. These children are being forced to give of themselves, not for pay or any kind of compensation. We never see the consequences if they resist, but, from the performances of all three actors by the end, it's apparent that resistance is futile or the consequences are so severe as to never be questioned.
At times, the children, even as they grow to teenagers and into young adults, behave as if being treated no better than cattle is their duty. They're worse off than slaves in many respects, but they act as if already resigned to surrender, and all three actors portray that hauntingly well by film's end. No one does this more convincingly than Garfield who lies on an operating table with a look on his face that is so heartbreaking. It mirrors an even worse devastated look on his face when he's told the news about a possible deferral that would spare his life.
With that sense of bleakness everpresent, the only thing these sheltered and almost cloistered characters have left are what they feel for one another. Even when the characters are younger and don't fully comprehend their fates, the notion that they've only got one another and have got to hold onto someone that they love is implicit and delivered in a subdued manner.
Kathy initially is the one who approaches Tommy and gets the ball rolling on their relationship. No doubt, Tommy feels like an orphan like many of the other young people. Tommy, in particular, is more isolated and alone because of schoolyard circumstances. Having Kathy reach out for him must to him be a godsend. Ruth, unfortunately, separates the two before they can truly realize what having each other and their love for another in this situation means.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 43 mins.


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