Never Let Me Go is based on the novel with the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro. It tells the story of three "special" people- Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. They are special because they are "clones" made for organ transplantation for "humans" suffering from incurable diseases. When these clones grow-up, they give "donations" and eventually "complete" after a few of them. However, in the school where Kathy, tommy and Ruth grew up, Hailsham, there runs a rumour that if two of the students are in "verifiable love", these donations can be "deferred". I put these words in quotation marks because the whole story is based on our understanding of these words.
The film is narrated by a twenty-eight year-old Kathy, who is a carer of the donors now. She is soon going to start donating herself, and now she looks back upon the lives of her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy, and hers. Kathy was always a passive, introverted but affectionate girl who fell for the sensitive and misunderstood Tommy since they were kids. But the more extroverted Ruth vies for his attention early on and they become inseparable until they reach their late teens. By the time they're all eighteen, they leave Hailsham and go to this place called the Cottages, where they meet other clones and hear for the first time about the deferrers. Tommy works out that the artwork that was taken by the students in Hailsham to be put in something called the Gallery, was a way to look into the souls of the students and see if they were truly in love. He tells this to Kathy, and also that it could not happen for him and Ruth, but rather with him and Kathy as she had submitted many of her sketches to the Gallery. Ruth however intervenes and due to an incident with a porn magazine, manipulates Kathy into feeling miserable about herself and her feelings for Tommy. Their friendship breaks, along with the separation of Ruth and Tommy. Kathy starts her job as a carer, where she's rather good, until nine years later when she runs into Ruth. Ruth has already donated twice and is very weak unlike Tommy, as she informs Kathy, who has also done two donations and is doing very well. They all embark on a trip together to see a washed-up boat they had heard about and here Ruth apologises to Kathy for keeping Tommy and her apart all these years. She admits that they always belonged together, but due to the deferrers story, and a fear of being left alone if they both got together, she had done everything. She now wanted to make amends and so she gives them the adress of the Madame who represented the Gallery so that they can apply to get deferred. Kathy and Tommy finally come out with their feelings towards each other, and go to see Madame, only to find out that the whole deferrers story was indeed a rumour, and the Gallery was a way for them to try and show others not what was in the children's souls, but that like normal children, they had souls. Kathy and Tommy leave the place empty-handed and with a bleak future ahead of them.
The basic plot of the film, if you notice, is very similar to Michael Bay's The Island. Except, the story isn't. Never Let Me Go is the most poignant film I have seen about matters of life and death, mixed with science fiction and a truly dystopian world. Beautifully written, the story touches the very core of your heart and leaves a permanent mark, very much like the scars on the donors' bodies. The existential metaphor of what our lives on this earth is like, the role of love, the role of those in charge, and our "completion" or death is so fitting, it's amazing. I don't remember actually crying throughout a film, but I did for this one. I mean, I knew the story as I have read a bit of the book and searched on it, but it is really frightening and touching at the same time. Two things made me weep- the metaphor, and the relationship between Kathy and Tommy.
The metaphor was just so fascinating and terrifying. Everything in the story- the children who wear these tracking devices on their hands, who are scared to cross the fence of the school, who wait for days when the old clothes and toys from other people arrive for them as gifts, the grown up kids so uncomfortable in the real world, the fascination with sex, the idea that all of their "originals" are from the trash of the society like prostitutes and thieves, the deferrers rumour, the donations, the Gallery and the completion; just everything stands for something in this world. I especially loved the deferrers story. The idea that somehow our lives can be better, or in the case of the characters in the story without donations, for even a few years because we're in love, I mean isn't that what we live for? And of course the whole significance of art, that it is the only way to reveal if we have hearts and souls in us, because only through art can you show your love to others.
Kathy's and Tommy's relationship has to be one of the most heartbreaking love stories I have ever seen. They were always supposed to be together, but never got the chance. The way Kathy looks at Tommy, especially after he and Ruth start going out, is so sad. She regretfully remarks, "I think girls are always mean to the boys they like. So maybe Ruth had liked him all along. Maybe I should have teased him too." Instead she was his truest friend, and treasured the cassette he had bought for her. This cassette, called Songs after Dark by Judy Bridgewater, contains the words "never let me go" and Kathy is shown often listening to it in the dark, thinking about Tommy. When they finally get together, their life together is cut short by the donations and the disproving of the deferrers rumour. When Tommy cries out in anguish, much like how he did as a child, Kathy as always comforts him. Kathy is shown looking at him when he has his operations done. The film ends with her thinking about him.
All the performances were brilliant. Carey Mulligan has such a beautiful voice, and her narration is very impressive. She is the observer, and we feel her sentiments by the way she views things. I personally liked this performance of hers much better than in An Education, and she really has a long long way to go. I hate Keira Knightley and I hated Ruth, so that's that. Now coming to Mr. Garfield, well, he's simply splendid. Tommy is slightly confused, very innocent and emotional, and Andrew plays him perfectly. His character in this film, to me, was a mixture of Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network and Sheldon in I'm Here. And have I mentioned before how much I love his voice? A great deal to answer that question. He and Mulligan had excellent chemistry. One of my favourite scenes in when they have been told about how the deferrer story is untrue, and they both are sitting on the sofa holding back their tears. While Kathy is reserved as usual, trying to still smile, Tommy's face is full of hopeless sorrow. The child actors- Izzy Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell and Charlie Rowe, who played Kathy, Ruth and Tommy as students in Hailsham were really good too. Purnell actually reminded me of a smaller Eva Green, but Small (??) looked exactly like a younger Mulligan. Rowe was just adorable.
The settings are breath-taking, especially the boat on the beach. The whole film has a very mellow cinematography, sort of like a grey dream, which is exactly what it was for the clones. The music is lovely, moreso whenever the "never let me go" song plays.
I definitely recommend everyone to watch it. With a box of tissues by your side.