“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them and not let unseen tides pull us apart.”
Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek, is an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same title. Beginning in the late 1990’s, the story is narrated by Kathy (Carey Mulligan), who was brought up at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham school along with her closest friends, Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). Now aged thirty-one, Kathy attempts to come to terms with her childhood at Hailsham and how the fate that was set out for her there has led her to her present state.
Set in three sections a few years apart, we are first introduced to the trio as children. Hailsham appears to be an ordinary school in the English countryside, where the boys play sport in the field and the girls gossip about who they fancy. But the fences that enclose them which the children are too scared to break out of, their ‘special’ treatment and obsession with their health by the teachers and lessons teaching them how to behave in the outside world start to make you think otherwise. Slowly the children’s unnerving futures which have been set out for them becomes apparent as the greater reason for their ‘creation’ is revealed. Although there is a lack of detail behind this scheme given to us as viewers, the beautiful scenery that is set around them starts to fade away, clearly revealing a more dystopian nature.
From the boarding school, the film fast forwards to the three aged 18 at a holding centre where they meet people outside of Hailsham. As their life’s purpose starts to be discussed with the others, they begin to understand what it means to be truly human as they experience love, loss and redemption.
In the final third of the film, the three have separated but organise a reunion in their weak states. Ruth admits that her affections for Tommy were out of jealousy, finally bringing Kathy and Tommy together and offering the key to possible happiness. This moment of forgiveness is one of the deeper aspects of the story focusing on the human emotions that the characters are beginning to feel. However, the film itself is very slow-paced and although we should be optimistic about how the story may play out, the film lacks any excitement of hope which converges our attention to a more despairing outcome.
Never Let Me Go is a classically composed British Drama with stunning cinematography, but a lot more was expected; it would have been easy to fall asleep at any point. Based on one of the most admired novels, I can only compliment its exceptional and unprecedented story and the dazzling acting of new performances from Mulligan and Garfield. Unfortunately, your eyes only stay open due to a spiritless curiosity rather than inquisitive desire. I would recommend reading the book instead but it is an eye-pleasing film to watch with a solace soundtrack.