Let the right one go
Never Let Me Go, dystopic love story, rated R, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles
If you had been raised as a medical experiment rather than as a child, your understanding of the world would likely differ from most other people’s — people with parents, for instance, or people who aren’t required to give away their vital organs in adulthood. If you were trained as a child to flash your wrist past an electronic monitor whenever you came and went and you have so few social skills that you’d be stymied by the task of ordering breakfast in a diner, chucking it all and running away might not present itself as an option.
To tell you this is not to “spoil” Never Let Me Go, which is based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and directed by Mark Romanek. Everything I reveal here is made explicit in the first 20 minutes of the movie — or even, if you are particularly adept at extrapolation, the very first scene.
Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth (initially played by child actors) spend their youth in the 1970s and ’80s at Hailsham, an English boarding school with lustrous wood floors and an emphasis on arts education. Kathy and Ruth have beds next to each other in a long dormitory room and appear to be best friends, though Ruth is the domineering type. Kathy has a crush on Tommy, who struggles with his temper and his creativity. The school administration
— led by Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling) — passes on horror stories about what happens to children who leave the Hailsham grounds. These scare tactics don’t sit well with a new teacher (or “guardian,” as teachers are called here), who tells her fourthyear students that they aren’t people — they are products created solely for the benefit of others, and they will die long before they are old. This information doesn’t elicit much reaction from the children, who are, after all, children preoccupied with their own lives.
At 18, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley, respectively), are sent to “the cottages,” along with “donors” from other schools, to kill time, largely unsupervised, before beginning their donations. Much of what donors know about the world is gleaned from things they have heard from the guardians, through the donor grapevine, and from television, which Kathy intuits has little bearing on how real people behave. As embodied by the Academy Awardnominated Mulligan, Kathy is an intelligent, empathetic young woman, quietly resigned to her lot in life. Ruth and Tommy have become a couple; Knightley’s Ruth is manipulative and angry, but she tries to cover this with a veneer of lighthearted worldliness that cracks at the slightest provocation. Tommy is in her sexual thrall, yet he can hardly stand to look at her. Kathy, left out of the friendship, eventually becomes a “carer,” a donor who postpones the inevitable by sitting at the bedsides of her peers, charged with keeping them calm and comfortable as parts of them are cut away.
Never Let Me Go is science fiction set in the recent past rather than a postapocalyptic future, and it resists any inclination toward
Look now, before they take your corneas: Carey Mulligan, left, and Keira Knightley