I’ve fallen way behind on this.  Let’s see what I can do to catch up.

First up is Never Let Me Go, based off of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The film is set in an alternate universe, where clones are grown and raised to donate organs (and I’m not spoiling anything here: the novel gives away this premise in the first three pages).  It’s slow paced and somewhat melodramatic, but that’s what it’s supposed to be.  The characters – Kathy H., Tommy, and Ruth – explore their lives from their youth at Hailsham to their first real life experiences at the Cottage and the eventuality of completion.  It’s a search for humanity in the face of them not being human, and they experience the very things that are supposed to make them human: love, hate, jealousy, betrayal, friendship, etc.  It’s essentially science fiction in a not very science fiction type world, but because it’s science fiction, the creators can play a bit more with the various pieces needed for the story.

The movie doesn’t live up to the level that the novel did – very few can, honestly – but it succeeds in bringing forth what is important from the novel.  The kids grow up at Hailsham, somewhat oblivious to their purpose, although one teacher, Miss Lucy, tells her students one day about what will happen.  She disagrees with the program at large, probably because they’re raising these kids in a false environment.  The kids can’t escape their predetermined fate, yet they’re raised to think that they’ll contribute to society like everyone else does.  In some way, they do; for example, we have the option to donate our organs upon our demise.  Yet this is different from the characters in this film: they donate while they’re still alive, and all that they’ll ever do is donate until they complete.  Even when the rumor of deferment is brought to the headmasters of Hailsham near the end of the film, that’s all these characters are doing, just deferring the inevitable (and they – being Kathy and Tommy – are quietly crushed by the answer).  They’ll complete eventually, but all they want is for the final few years of life to be with someone.

It’s selfish, but really, isn’t that what we all are, is inherently selfish?

The performances are strong throughout, though all are completely trounced by Carey Mulligan, who seems to get better with each successive leading role.  Both Knightley and Garfield are good as well; this actually plays to Knightley’s strengths as an actress in that she’s very jealous and plotting.  Garfield was better in the Social Network, but he’s still effective here, bringing both the childlike characteristics and the simmering anger and intensity that define Tommy’s character throughout his life.  It’s their performances that drive the film.

In the end, Never Let Me Go is a very worthwhile exploration of humanity.

B+

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