Overlooked & Underseen: Never Let Me Go (2010)
Confession time: sometimes I’ll watch a movie because it has an actor I think is hot. Come on now, I think we all do it from time to time. This film caught my eye because I saw Andrew Garfield was in it. Yes, he’s supremely good-looking, but he can actually act. He’s never given a bad performance in anything I’ve seen (do not @ me about Spider-Man, thank you), so, of course, I was willing to give this one a try.
Garfield’s hotness notwithstanding, Never Let Me Go also has a damn good pedigree. It was directed by Mark Romanek, whose credits include the feature One Hour Photo, plus some of the best music videos ever made. Seriously, there are too many to mention here, but take a look at the list when you get a moment. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Ex Machina), based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day). I might as well mention the film also stars Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Charlotte Rampling. All names worth conjuring up. In this column, I try to showcase films I don’t see people talking about on social media, one’s I feel really deserve the attention. Never Let Me Go is definitely one of these films.
We first meet Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth as pre-teens in a boarding school called Hailsham. An adult Kathy narrates the film, telling us stories from her childhood, growing up with her two friends. But, immediately, something just seems off at this school.
We eventually learn, along with the students themselves, that the children are being raised for organ harvesting. The headmistress (Rampling) informs the children that it is their duty to be donors and they should be proud to do it. Pretty heavy stuff to lay on someone, let alone a 12-year-old. Although they might not sense their true purpose (at least not before this revelation), their existence at Hailsham is, still, rather bleak.
Excitement is stirred when a man comes to the school loaded down with boxes full of “merchandise”. With everything unpacked, our trio’s selections consist of cast-off toys, dolls with missing arms, etc. All things most people would just chuck in the bin. Tommy buys Kathy an audio cassette. One of the songs on the tape is a sad, lovelorn ballad called “Never Let Me Go”. Over time, Kathy’s feelings for Tommy grow into something beyond friendship. But then, Ruth steps in and easily manipulates him away from Kathy.
As adults, the trio (Knightley, Garfield and Mulligan) are reunited and it’s clear Tommy and Kathy still have feelings for each other. Ruth admits she only went after Tommy because she was jealous of Kathy. But, confessions and heartbreak aside, Ruth and Tommy are revealed to be past their sell date and not long for this Earth.
I’ve got a list going of films I’m going to discuss in this column, and Never Let Me Go is actually a fairly recent addition. In light of “Toupée Fiasco” (not mine, that is all Lauren Warren of @nerdsofpreycast) taking office this week, I wanted to take a look at something with a distinct dystopian outlook. This film is bleak, but, goddamn, is it beautiful. Although they don’t live in it for very long, Romanek makes the world these characters inhabit so gorgeous, it makes it all the more heartbreaking. These kids know they are bred for one thing and one thing only. So, although they can’t really do much with their lives, they still have to make a choice as to whether they are going to relish every minute they have left or are they just going to laze about, watching television, wasting year after year until that last final donation.
The world of Never Let Me Go is grim, stark, and desolate, but it’ll make you think. The journey to get there might not be pleasant, but the final result could be just the thing you’re looking for at the moment.