Let the right one go

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Jen­nifer Levin For The New Mex­i­can

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

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