Never Let Me Go

Three orphans grow up at an exclusive English boarding school with a dangerous secret.

That’s a description I saw somewhere else, on a website or in Google search results. A better description would be “Orphans grow at an exclusive English boarding school with a deadly purpose”.

Or “Never let Me Go centers on the lives and relationships of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, students at an innocent-seeming English boarding school for orphans.”

Spoiler: The orphans, all of them, are clones. They grow up at Hailsham, the boarding school, and leave in their late teens. A little later in life, before they turn thirty, they will begin making “donations”, donating their vital organs to human beings who are not clones.

Most clones reach “completion”, or die, on or before their third donation.

Never Let Me Go is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro written in 2005. The movie adaptation was released in 2010.

I saw the film last year. I just started the novel this week and I am maybe a quarter of the way through.

This is not the normal sci-fi “people being harvested for their organs” film you usually see. The clones don’t suddenly take up arms, and fight their way out of England, shooting anyone who gets in their way. No, this film is fatalistic, or maybe it’s only the orphans. They accept their fate and dutifully, meekly, check into the hospital when they are called to give a donation. They have no fight in them and only a fleeting desire to live longer.

Never Let Me Go put its mark on me and it has never let me go.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the way they accept their short lives and the purpose for which they were created. Maybe it’s the explicit message taht life is short and most human activity and ambition is meaningless, but also meaningful.

Or it’s the tragic romantic triangle at the center of it – tragic because of the depressing fate of the lovers, and the disturbing secret holding that triangle together.

Never Let Me Go stars Carey Mulligan (Kathy), Keira Knightley (Ruth), and Andre Garfield (Tommy) and has a lot to recommend it: the performances of the child actors, the calm direction, and the horrifying specter of death hovering over everyone and everything, lurking prominently in the distance, far enough away from the emotional core of the movie that it does not have to be avoided. It doesn’t get so intense that you feel the need to stop watching the movie. The movie does its best to act like a normal drama, just like the characters do their best to act like normal people.

I can’t stop thinking about these people.

1 comment

  1. Never Let Me Go is certainly a very rare kind of sci-fi drama for how it most uniquely tackles its obvious issues. Thanks for your review.

    Liked by 3 people

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