Never Let Me Go

never-let-me-go

Alee’s Analysis: An original, but solemn take on the human condition.

Never Let Me Go is a 2010 movie based on the 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro best-selling novel of the same title. The film is centered on the lives of three young adults nearing their deaths. Most of the movie is a flashback: Kathy H (Carey Mulligan) is reminiscing about her life and the lives of her two friends, and she retells the story of when the three met, how, and why they are bonded together for eternity.

On the surface, the three seem like your every day people. However, their lives and life story is a unique one — they are all clones, created for the sole purpose of harvesting organs to cure terminal illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s. If you assume that Never Let Me Go is just another sci-fi movie you’d be completely wrong. Instead of focusing on their differences from normal human beings, the movie depicts a moving story of “creatures” who are just like everyone else.

Human Reality: Love

The love between Kathy H and Tommy D (Andrew Garfield) that makes up a large part of the movie’s scenes, blossoms while they are in the fourth grade at their English boarding school, Hailsham. While Tommy is picked on by the other children, Kathy takes a special interest in him, and he in her. Unfortunately, their blossoming relationship is thwarted by Kathy’s friend and roommate, Ruth (Keira Knightley).

Despite this, Kathy holds on to the love she has for Tommy, hoping that one day they can finally be together. Each day more time passes, and time is running out. Will she and Tommy ever share the love they have for each other?

Human Reality: Longing

scene-from-never-let-me-goThe three friends want to experience a true, fulfilling life and understand who they are and where they came from. They see a light through the window when they are finally allowed to leave Hailsham for the outside world. Seeking answers they realize that things might never be clear.

More than anything, they long for more time — time to live life, to love, to feel, to be like everyone else. They know that they are not expected to live past their fourth organ donation, but each is hoping to put the donations off, for their own personal reasons.

Human Reality: Death

In the end of course, they must face their reality. They were not created to live a long life; in fact, their humanity is doubted by those who know who they are. Yet as the end inches closer, even those who at first denied their humanness are faced with the truth. They are human, with all human strengths and weaknesses.

One might be tempted to feel sorry for Kathy H, Tommy, and Ruth. They were given life, just to have it taken away. But one lesson of Never Let Me Go is that their lives are not so different, not so sad. We will all “complete” on day, and many of us will have regrets, with unfulfilled dreams, with love that was never realized. The three may not have reached 30 years, but how many years would be enough — when would we think we’ve experienced all we need to in life? Kat and her friends may be genetically-engineered clones but their lives reflect all of our lives — no one can escape the human condition.

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12 thoughts on “Never Let Me Go

  1. This is a brilliant review. I read the book earlier this year not knowing anything about it. While a bit slow at the start but once it picked up I was hooked. This is the type of sci-fi that I enjoy, dystopian novels that really mean something to everyday life. I then watched the film after and found it to be pretty good considering I don’t usually like the film if I loved the book. It is a heavy topic but presented in a really engaging way where the reader hopes for the characters even though their demise is inevitable. This is definitely worth the read/watch.

  2. Wanderlust,

    I agree: I’m usually not a fan of futuristic, sci-fi movies (although I can get into some books of the type), but you said it: Never Let Me Go is truly meaningful. I was rooting for them, like somehow they might be able to escape their fate.

    A lot of people who read the book said the film was great, even the author. So I think that’s a very good sign.

  3. Alee: “But one lesson of Never Let Me Go is that their lives are not so different, not so sad. We will all “complete” on day, and many of us will have regrets, with unfulfilled dreams, with love that was never realized. The three may not have reached 30 years, but how many years would be enough — when would we think we’ve experienced all we need to in life?”

    Wow Alee.

    This post arrived right on time.

    Yesterday I was overwhelmed by sadness, thinking about my past mistakes and regrets, feeling like there will never be enough time for me to “perfect” my life. I need to stop feeling that way. Because honestly, I think that if I could be certain of a few hundred years, I would probably still feel that is not enough time.

    I am an atheist, so I feel I have to fit all my living into this one life. When I feel overwhelmed, I like listening to this video, by one of my favorite writers and speakers, Sam Harris. He is an atheist too. The title is “Death and The Present Moment”. It is an hour long, but I think anyone who has the time to listen to it–even a believer–can be inspired. Sam really puts it all into perspective.

    Also, I am going to watch that movie. I think I will really like it.

  4. Hi Ann,

    Glad the post helped you. I totally get what you mean about not having enough time to get everything just right; just perfect. The concept of death is kind of scary for me, but still intriguing. I’m agnostic, so I really don’t know what will happen when that time comes.

    I don’t have a full hour to spare now, and I like to look at videos even if it’s just someone speaking. But I will definitelywatch that video later.

  5. Alee: “The concept of death is kind of scary for me, but still intriguing. I’m agnostic, so I really don’t know what will happen when that time comes.”

    It is scary for me too.

    But death is the only certainty in life. So I am trying to accept that reality, while also trying to enjoy life. I have known several people, over the past couple of years, who were relatively young and seemed healthy but are now dead and gone. And a close friend of mine has just had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. I can’t ignore death anymore. I feel that I have become a lot more understanding and appreciative of the people in my life since becoming an atheist because I now believe that this is my one opportunity to love them.

    Being an atheist does not mean that I am certain of what happens after we die. For me, it means that there is no compelling evidence of a theistic God and this is the only life that I will ever have. Even if life continues after death in some way, it won’t be exactly the same as this life, and that makes this life unique. So I am not going to be bound by the doctrine of any particular religion.

    Here is another good video, from Steve Jobs. It is the 2005 commencement speech given at Stanford. You probably have heard this one. Very inspiring. Death can be a motivator.

    Steve Jobs:
    “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

    No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

    Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

  6. Ann,

    Thanks for the Steve Jobs video. It’s kind of somber, but I guess knowing you’re going to die pretty soon can do that to you.

    “I feel that I have become a lot more understanding and appreciative of the people in my life since becoming an atheist because I now believe that this is my one opportunity to love them.”

    Well, that’s great then. I feel like atheists get painted as sort of cold, unyielding people sometimes, so that’s good to know.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

  7. Nkosazana,

    It’s a great movie, I promise! Even if you’re not into the deeper meaning of it, the acting is good and it’s pretty funny at times.

    Hi Kareen,

    I agree they did a great job with the casting. The younger versions of the main characters looked just like them. Best of all I would say was Carey Mulligan. I hadn’t heard about her before this film, but she is a great actress.

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