ADAPTED from the Japanese-born British author Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name and sculpted by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), Never Let Me Go takes the form of a sobering British drama.
‘This devastatingly existential premise - our own impending mortality - means an emotional engagement with the donors’
Directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo, Static), this film is closer to a sci-fi tragedy than a one-dimensional romance.
It opens with an epigraph explaining that a medical breakthrough in 1952 had enabled human life expectancy to reach beyond 100 years. This is the backdrop for the relationship jigsaw between Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), during their time at Halisham boarding school, tucked away in the idyllic British countryside.
Subtle hints suggest not all is well at Halisham, and the film remains frustratingly enigmatic until a perturbing truth emerges. A conscientious teacher tells the children they won’t grow up to become nurses, racing car drivers or even work in a supermarket like everybody else, but will instead donate their vital organs one by one until they ‘complete’ - die - which shifts the film from mysterious to horrifying.
This devastatingly existential premise - our own impending mortality - means an emotional engagement with the donors. An idea that they each have an ‘original’ on which they are modeled suggests they are effectively clones.
Their only hope of salvation is a rumour that says true love between two donors can defer the process. While Ruth looks to exploit this for fear of completing, it becomes a genuine consideration for Kathy and Tommy who long for more time together.
The depiction of the fictional world is disturbingly real. Convincingly portrayed as a non-fictional memoir, enforced by Kathy’s narration of her story, the story is at its heart, tragic. As all good love stories should be.
Helped along by some visually discomforting scenes, first-rate performances across the board and a teasingly ambiguous storyline, the film has a suitably arresting affect.