|Welcome to Online Film Home! The place for all film lovers.|
Never Let Me Go Film (2010) •
forcefully, memorably, and, yes, never lets us
Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com, September 22,
With Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek has delivered
a graceful adaptation that captures the spirit of the Ishiguro novel -- which
will be precisely the problem for some viewers. --Rotton
This melancholy and depressing film adapted
from Kazuo Ishiguro's dystopian sci-fi novel tells an achingly sad story that
eschews any easy preaching and offers a delicate meditation on time and the
transience of life, with very intense performances by its main trio. --
In my will, I have left to the next generation such parts
of my poor body that it can salvage. That is the Golden Rule. I suppose if you
take it literally, you would accept life as a Donor in "Never Let Me Go," because after all, that is the
purpose for which you were born.
In the film, there is a
society within the larger one consisting of children who were created in a
laboratory to be Donors. They have no parents in the sense we use the term. I'm
not even sure they can be parents. They exist to grow hearts, kidneys, livers
and other useful items, and then, sadly, to die after too much has been cut
When I read Kazuo
Ishiguro's novel, the Donors' purpose was left murky until
midway through the book. In the film, it's clear to us but not, up to a certain
point, to the children. They live within a closed world
whose value system takes pride in how often and successfully they have donated.
They accept this. It is all they have ever known. One of the most dangerous
concepts of human society is that children believe what they are told. Those who
grow out of that become adults, a status not always achieved by their
We meet three Donor children, first when young and then later. They are
Kathy, Tommy and Ruth, played
in their 20s by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira
Knightley. They were raised at
Hailsham, a progressive boarding school for Donors: progressive
in the sense that it's an experiment based on the possibility that these
test-tube babies are real human beings. Well, of course they are, we think. But
it doesn't suit the convenience of the larger society to think of them in that
way. If you are about to get someone's heart, don't you tend to objectify the
source? You should. If you get my heart, I don't want you moping around about
me. It's your heart. You pay the bills.
The teachers at Hailsham aren't precisely progressives in the John
Dewey tradition, but the school is the last one that still encourages
the children at all. The society wants these Donors for one purpose and doesn't
want to waste resources on them for any other. If you can walk through this plot
without tripping over parallels to our own society and educational systems,
you're more sure-footed than I.
The director, Mark Romanek,
wisely follows Ishiguro in burying
any meanings well within a human story. The film is about Kathy, Tommy and Ruth
and their world, and not some sort of parable like 1984.
Essentially it asks, how do you live with the knowledge that
you are not considered a human being but simply a consumer resource? Many hourly
workers at big box stores must sometimes ponder this question.
"Never Let Me Go" would have made
a serious error in ramping up contrived melodrama toward some sort of
science-fiction showdown. This is a movie about empathy. About how Ruth realizes
Kathy and Tommy were naturally in love with each other as adolescents, and how
she selfishly upset that process. About how now, when it may be too late, she
wants to make amends. About the old rumor at
Hailsham that if two Donors should fall deeply in love they
might qualify for some sort of reprieve — short-term, to be sure. But if their
masters can believe they can love, they would have to believe they are human.
Two of the requirements for a being with a soul in Thomist
philosophy are free will, and the ability to
love. Donors qualify for both.
This is such a meditative, delicate film. I heard some snuffling about me in
the darkness. These poor people are innocent. They have the same hopes everyone
has. It is so touching that they gladly give their organs to humankind. Greater
love hath no man, than he who gives me his kidney, especially his second
This is a good movie, from a masterful novel. "The Remains of the Day," also inspired by
an Ishiguro novel, was similar:
What is happening is implied, not spelled out. We are
required to observe. Even the events themselves are amenable to different
interpretations. The characters may not know what they're revealing about
themselves. They certainly don't know the whole truth of their existence. We do,
because we are free humans. It is sometimes not easy to extend such stature to
those we value because they support our comfort.
Choose an item to go there!