Movie (and book) review – Never Let Me Go (possible spoilers)

July 18 2011
by emma

This movie, based on the amazing novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, involves a subject I’m both fascinated and disturbed by .. human cloning.  It also raises an issue I’ve wondered about, as I’m sure a lot of people have – whether a cloned human has a soul.

I’m not sure where this idea came from.  I know it’s something we discussed in uni tutes back in the 90s, after Dolly the sheep was cloned.  Everyone was horrified at the thought of human cloning and 14 years later, that feeling hasn’t changed for most of us.  The first thing which occurred to us as young and idealistic nursing students, was that the cloned person would somehow be damaged, almost in a theological or even supernatural sense.  This was odd as most of us were coming from a scientific angle rather than a religious one but then that alone points to how contentious this issue is; there are no definitive or easy answers.

I heard of and saw the movie first, the sum of my knowledge being a science fiction love story, after which I read the book.  The book is brilliant but I really felt the movie adaptation was a good one.  I have to say, I read a lot of negative reviews of the movie online and don’t have a lot of friends who liked it – I loved both though, the story really getting under my skin and staying with me for a long time.

The movie opens to an idyllic, sun speckled, very English school on large, green grounds.  At first it seems they are middle class privileged school students but as the movie goes on it’s clear their lives are more complicated with a sinister purpose.  We see the students as little children, then to leaving school at 18 where they move to a further facility called ‘the cottages’ to learn skills and to eventually become what they are designed to be.  There are early unexplained and vague references in the movie which become clear later on – several referrals to the students’ art, a teacher being sacked for telling the students more than she should and the implication of lives being short lived.

The students behave as young people moving towards adulthood do – falling in and out of love, feeling hurt and resentful, making friends, and attempting to learn where they fit into the world.  It is this which makes the story so heartbreaking and made me wonder what I would do faced with such an ethical dilemma; if medical intervention discovered 60 years ago meant I could live until I was 100 years old without fear of illness or frailty.

Never Let Me Go came to no reassuring conclusion but this is what made it so captivating and sad.  What would you do if your very existence was questioned?

Image from: Never Let Me Go, 2010, Fox Searchlight Pictures, UK

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