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Never Let Me Go


Year: 2010 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Mark Romanek 
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley  
An image from Never Let Me Go

The underlying premise of Never Let Me Go is pretty straightforward. Advances in medical science have allowed the human lifespan to be extended beyond 100 years, although the fact that this is done through clones acting as organ farms is not initially made explicit. The film, however, is less interested in dwelling on the science fiction aspect than exploring the evolving relationships between its three main characters – Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). It captures them at three stages in their lives, from their childhood in Hailsham, to their teenage lives at the Cottages and finally when they are adults, Tommy and Ruth having become donors, while Kathy works as a carer for donors like them.

Inevitably, Never Let Me Go cannot escape comparison to the novel it was based on. Kazuo Ishiguro has indicated that he is very satisfied with the adaptation and the performances given by Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley, and it is true that the cast deserves praise. While Mulligan’s Kathy may seem frustratingly passive, the effect is to render her a lens through which the audience can view this brave new world that has been brought into being by cloning. She also serves as a contrast with the almost desperate, proactive behaviour of Ruth, who lures Tommy away from Kathy, and Tommy himself, whose earnest attempts to make things right with Kathy as an adult are strangely moving precisely because of their childlike naivety.

The film also succeeds in raising ethical questions without seeming to browbeat its audience into adopting a particular position. By focusing on the characters’ relationships rather than the science, the film elicits a more authentic sympathy for them, especially in the final act when it becomes clear that for a clone, there is ultimately only clinical ‘completion’ rather than human happiness.

Ian Chung

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Screenings of this film:

2010/2011 Summer Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Summer Term (35mm)