Pale. Washed out. A blurry facsimile of itself. This is the world of “Never Let Me Go.”
Both its scenery and its inhabitants lack color. The latter are considered less than human — encouraged and respected as children, and, as young adults, devalued and living on borrowed time, created for a very specific purpose then disposed of like so much used Kleenex. In this phenomenal film, the viewer is forced to examine what’s in a life and walks away with more questions than answers.
For certain young people like Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), their lives have been decided at birth. Cloned from the dregs of society, they are sheltered and cherished at an idyllic boarding school, then shipped to an isolated farm before donating their vital organs for the greater good. Perhaps the most important people in society — the ones whose internal parts remedy what was previously incurable and extend life expectancy — these young people are severely unappreciated, kept away from the joys of real living and their existences cut tragically short.
Mulligan’s quiet magnetism and pleasant narration drive the piece, and Knightley effectively plays against type as mean girl Ruth. However, the real stars are Garfield and Sally Hawkins (the latter as a well-meaning but ill-fated teacher). Garfield can convey bumbling charm and heartbreaking vulnerability with a single glint of his brown eyes, and Hawkins’ loving and maternal guardian only wants to do right by the children she has been assigned to protect even if it costs her a livelihood.
“Never Let Me Go” isn’t the shortest of films, but is well worth the journey; by the end you’ll want to spend even more time with these compelling doomed characters. DVD extras include a 30-minute featurette on the making of the film, which is based on the acclaimed Kazuo Ishiguro novel.