Based on the novel by Remains of the Day scribe Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go tells of an alternate history, wherein all diseases have been cured, and life expectancy has exceeded a century. Kathy (Mulligan), a 20-something “carer,” retraces her life and experiences with her two friends Tommy and Ruth (Garfield and Knightley), especially their shared childhood at Hailsham Boarding School. As they mature and discover the truth of their existence, they wrestle with the falsehoods of the past and the terrible fate they are assigned. A haunting, beautifully tragic film.
The specifics of the aforementioned medical breakthrough, and the systems in place to support it, are never explicitly stated, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps. The ethical implications are rarely considered in the film’s world, which in itself makes the situation that much more horrible. I found this fascinating, and the film’s very slow, deliberate pace leaves plenty of time to ponder. But the science, much like it was in Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, is essentially a MacGuffin, setting the stage for the trio at the heart of the film. The feelings of love, loss and betrayal between them are palpable, aided greatly by the subtle but brilliant performances of the three leads and their younger counterparts. Mulligan and Meikle-Small bring an innocent awareness to what could have been a very maudlin character, and Garfield displays an intriguing mixture of optimism and resignation. Romanek, following up his previous film One Hour Photo, shows an even hand and a good eye, and Rachel Portman’s score is beautiful if a tad insistent at times. Be patient, and bring a box of tissues; it is well worth the watch.