Potential spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know the premise of the film, or my interpretation of the characters’ psychology, don’t read on…
Never Let Me Go, based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a science fiction film about children that are bred for the sole purpose of organ donation. The children attendÂ what appears to be a boarding school called Hailsham, where they are told that health is of the utmost importance because their lives have a very special purpose. It is slowly revealed to themÂ what that “special purpose” is. The story is built around three of the children who are embroiled in a sort of love triangle, which has a uniquely bittersweet feel given that their lives will be so short.
The film stops short of soapbox bioethics. There’s no cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific progress, or allusion to real-world dilemmas like the story of Marissa Ayala, a child that was conceived for the purpose of donating bone marrow to her ill sister.
Instead the heart of the film is psychological. The children don’t try to escape or resist their fate. Two of the main characters do try to achieve a small stay of execution that they believe is permitted, but they never try anything outside of the rules laid out for them.They simply accept and live out their fate.
Having grown up in our world,Â such acceptance seems ridiculous. But these children didn’t grow up in our world. Everything they’ve ever known, every adult they’ve ever known or trusted has told them that this is their purpose and destiny.Â
Instead of making a political statements,Â this filmÂ uses the premise to subtly suggest thatÂ we all should question the assumptions we have about our own lives, especially those learned in childhood. What would someone who didn’t grow up in our world think it’s ridiculous for us to accept?
Also, some think Never Let Me Go is the most wrongly overlooked film of 2010. And Carey Mulligan, as always, is magnificent.