Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

I’ve always wanted to do a movie review about this ever since I watched it last week. For the past few years, I’ve always come across Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” novel in the bookstores (which is the same novel the book is based upon) several times though I never bothered to pick it up. And now after watching the film, it definitely gave motivation to go ahead and pick up the book since it’s the book that this movie with a great storyline is based upon. That’s the head start: brilliant storyline. Now for those of you who haven’t watched it, I’m going to try and minimize the spoilers in this movie review I’ll be doing. Or you should just probably not try to click the link below to read further just to avoid any spoilers (minimal or major).

“Never Let Me Go”, as I’ve said earlier is based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same time. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’d probably think it’s a period drama or a coming-of-age sort of film. You’d be surprised that the film is actually a science fiction film largely as it explores the human cloning and the ethics involved in clones being incorporated into society and how they are treated by it.

The film stars Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Kiera Knightley) who, as children, lived in a seemingly normal boarding school in southern England. As the story goes on, young Kathy develops fondness for young Tommy who seems to reciprocate back those feelings to her. However Ruth, though she is good friends with Kathy, steals Tommy away from her right before her eyes. It is also at this time that they were informed of their true nature: they are clones or artificial human beings created only to be reserves of human organs when the need arises and all the students enrolled in Hailsham (the boarding school) have the same fate. They are subjected to organ donations (a maximum of 4) until they cease to function and Hailsham turns out to be sort of an institution to watch over these clones and make sure they are kept healthy and functioning well.

As they grew up to be teenagers, the trio are moved out of Hailsham and into a small village in England called as The Cottages, which is a community that mixes regular people with clones. Ruth and Tommy never separate although Kathy still obviously harbored strong feelings for Tommy, she mostly kept to herself. Tension rises as the relationship between Ruth and Tommy grow sexual and from there they start their own self-discovery and realize what it means to live as they are.

I love this movie so much and it’s definitely been a while since I’ve watched a movie of this caliber and in this genre that made me feel something after watching it. The three lead actors did an incredible, laudable job of establishing the atmosphere and the setting of a world (it’s set in the 70s to early 90s) where clones are created and are treated unequally as human beings. The film delves into the ethics of human cloning and equality for all at the same time also exploring the formidable love story between the three characters. The film showed the side of the clones that they too, are fighting a hard battle they can’t win and are condemned to and are affected by the others who look down to them as inferiors:

” We all know it, we just never say it. We are modeled on trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, as long as they aren’t psychos. No, if you want to look for possibles – if you want to do it properly – look in the gutter.” – Ruth

Carey Mulligan was perfect and there’s an innocent intensity about her that shows right through Kathy and her chemistry with Andrew Garfield, who is a brilliant actor, is convincing. My love for Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield has grown exponentially—more so with Andrew Garfield though.

And can I just talk about my favorite scenes in the movie, because I can’t help but dwell on how brilliant they were? Right, carry on.

Kiera created a perfect picture of a tired, worn-out and regretful character of Ruth, the woman responsible for keeping Kathy and Tommy apart throughout the plot. There was a scene were Ruth addresses this matter with the two, asking both for their forgiveness for not letting them live their love in the remainder of their lives. Without saying much but able to portray intensity and strength at the same time, Kiera’s character Ruth shows she needs their forgiveness to help her ‘complete’.

Ruth tells Kathy and Tommy from the beginning, she knew both had true love for each other and were meant to be a couple.  Neither Tommy or Kathy denied what Ruth said and Ruth goes on why she did that: she said she was” jealous and afraid—I didn’t want to be the one that would be left alone”. The worst one could feel; the things that makes us very vulnerable. Ruth is the bitch character in the film but then looking I her, I thought, I could relate to her and so did probably many others who watched this film. It’s not probably as heavy as what Ruth did but haven’t we, at some point in our lives, have done the similar thing, one way or another?

Kiera gave life to Ruth. It was astounding.

Ruth proceeds to offer to undo what she did to Tommy and Kathy by urging them to get a deferral from their organ donations thus buying them enough time to spend more time together. Kathy, as she hears this, gets mad at her and this is the first time Kathy’s character is seen mad in the whole movie. She is mad at Ruth for thinking about the possibility to getting them to apply for a deferral because she never bought it as true.

“It’s too late for that Ruth. Way too late. It’s stupid to even think about it” – Kathy

Kathy does not allow herself hope because she knows the rumors aren’t true and turns way from Ruth, knowing she can never forgive her. Tommy on the other hand is listening to Ruth carefully and asks for how to obtain a deferral. Tommy kept hope and this was shown at that moment up until he lets Kathy see his drawings—Tommy knows he is a good giver (he’ll be on his 3rd donation and knows he will complete soon) and he shows more strength and more life once he saw Kathy after years of being apart and how he heard of a deferral from Ruth. He lit up instantly indicating he kept hope. He cares very much with his time for Kathy and how he could extend his time to be with her.

The three leads’ talents carried me away in these scenes and there was already something welling up inside me (more so at the explanation of the purpose of the Gallery).

“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them and not let unseen tides pull us apart.”

Overall in my opinion, it was a definitely a harrowing tragic film but also very powerful. I think that science fiction aspect of it good since it addresses what it means to be human in a dystopian world where we live amongst clones. Humans are depicted as also addressing the concept of ‘human clones’ where ‘farms’ and institutions like Hailsham care for children and are the symbol of ‘forward thinking’ for the future of a world where disease mortality has decreased significantly due to the accessibility or organ transplantation and tissue repair. Also it explores, though sparingly, the existence of clones whether what was happening was ethical or not (like the purpose of the Gallery—in the film it was a determinant to see if the clones had any souls which was shown through art).

In the end of the plot, the three characters show their search for extending their lifespan having lived most in resignation to their fate, however at the end of their quest is as devastating as inevitable their fate is. I feel a lump in my throat watching them, listening to Carey’s tender narration to the sad events in the film as it also meditates on the concept of death, if clones are any different from the humans they serve to help and how death looms in true love. The film unfolds the value of true love and the fleeting nature of life and what it means to be happy.


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