Director: Mark Romanek
Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro (novel), Alex Garland (screenplay)
Stars: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield
Unseen tides keep us apart.
“Never let me go
Love me much too much
If you let me go
Life will loseits touch
What woul I be without you?
There's no place for me without you
- Jane Monheit, Never let me go
As children, Ruth (Keira Knightley), Kathy (Carey Mulligan) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.
That reality is reveled to them when they are kids by their teacher miss Lucy (Sally Hawkings in brief but powerful appearance). They are clones and when they grow up their organs will be harvested to save lives of the people from “the outside world”.These kids have been bred to save lives, kept apart from the society and they were already told certain things about their fates. The only life they know is what was presented to them, contained, orchestrated, carefully planned. Their organs will not be harvested all at once, but in stages. They will be kept alive, until most vital organs are taken in the stage called “completion” after which their short life will end.
The movie and the novel it is based on present alternative course of past where cloning process begun in 50's. Clones were raised on various farms around the countries, modeled after existing people and what may come as quite odd - allowed to have sex because they were sterile. In this story they participate in various art projects because the school wants to determine whether they have “souls”. The approach towards them many times is heartless, cold, detached. But what else can be done in a situation like this? It's all subjective. If you or someone you loved got ill, terminally ill and the only way to save that person would be to take vital organ from another being bred specifically for that purpose would you hesitate to do so? This is the first movie about cloning that caused me to reflect on that matter. We watch lives of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. People like us, who are sometimes weak, sometimes strong, who love, hope, dream. And then their lives are taken from them in order to save someone else.
The only difference I noticed between us and them is that they don't want to escape their fates. They have been indoctrinated into knowing only one way of life, the way of waiting for donations. That issue causes a lot of discussion and some say that it's part of human spirit to rebel, to express the will to survive. But is it really? Don't we all do things we don't want to? We always have a choice. We can always run away. But what will happen later? The movie apart from being the portrait of the world in which cloning human beings is accepted and popularized is also the study of mortality.
The characters in this movie don't escape the completion stage as we don't escape death. The donations are made gradually, the characters grow feeble, their bodies are becoming weaker, much as ours do as we age. There is no escape from our fate and we only have a little time on this Earth. The characters say that some of the clones die after 2nd donation, some after 3rd. Much like we do – some of us live short lives, some make it to 100 years old. But we all go through the same stages – childhood, adulthood, old age. None of us can escape.
In the world of clones showed in “Never let me go” certain rumor exists – if two clones truly love each other they will get few more years to live. But they must prove their love. Tommy and Kathy have been friends since forever but as obvious as Kathy's feelings are Tommy remains a question mark – when he is younger he seems to truly love Kathy but his older version seems very weak and confused, maybe even incapable of loving someone. In my opinion he was using Kathy to have more time, but fortunately Kathy never seemed to realized this.
The third person in this tragedy is Ruth who comes between them and becomes Tommy's girlfriend because, in a very human reaction, she simply doesn't want to be alone. Her character is probably the most heartbreaking – she displayed the strongest will to survive and in her short life she never experienced true love.
All three leads are strong but Andrew Garfield is the one whose performance was very ambiguous. If his character truly didn't love Kathy he did a good job, but if the intention was different he failed. I had no sympathy for his character and Charlie Rowe who played younger Tommy did a much better job. Knightley delivers her strongest performance since “Atonement” and Mulligan is wonderful as strong, almost too good to be true Kathy. The younger actors, especially Izzy Meikle-Small resemble older ones so much it's astonishing. And the supporting cast is equally impressive.
The film's cinematography is subtle, the music is very delicate and the pace is steady and peaceful. It makes the fact those people are so reconciled to their fate even more astonishing. “Never let me go” shows beautifully how “those unseen tides” - time, life, people – keep us apart from the things and persons we should spend our short lives with. Because before we notice it, before we have time to say all the things we wanted to say and do all we wanted to do, the chance is gone. And so are we.