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Never Let Me Go
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Academy Award® Nominees Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, co-star with talented newcomer Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) in this poignant and powerful film. Kathy (Mulligan), Ruth (Knightley) and Tommy (Garfield) are best friends who grow up together at an English boarding school with a chilling secret. When they learn the shocking truth--that they are genetically engineered clones raised to be organ donors--they embrace their fleeting chance to live and love. Based on the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), Never Let Me Go is an intriguing exploration of hope and humanity.
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(If you are like me and you picked it up as the result of an Amazon recommendation then like me it might be wholly unexpected.)
This was much better than I imagined it would be.
It is actually an alternate history movie about the moral implications of cloning and growing organs for sick people.
The plot is interesting. The characters are very well done, and the moral issues are both clear and intriguing.
While yes, "Never Let Me Go" is a love story, even tip-toeing into coming-of-age, it is hardly so in the romantic sense, and it is played out under a cloud of such darkness (a structure of the science-fiction, yes, Sci-Fi premiss which is the "secret," to be discovered), that few of the rewards of love will ever be felt, not by the characters or viewers. Instead, the ethical questions raised will remain, like the walking dead, largely because, in an economic sense, the injustice which is at the heart of this film, adapted from Kazu Ishiguro's novel, "The Remains of the Day," is very much in play today, where the fruits of life, enjoyed with obscene excess by many while so scarce for most, sets a reality of disparity and insensitivity which makes it seem more than plausible that we're headed for the same killing fiction which cages the film's characters.
However you may classify this film after you have traveled through its frames, you will agree that the hallmarks of excellent film making--screenplay, casting, acting, direction, cinematography, design, were all integral to the journey, even if the destination leaves you cold, disappointed, and/or needing a warm hug.
Indeed, one of the reasons the movie works is that it effectively portrays the cold utilitarianism of any society in which man tries to take the place of and act as God. At the beginning of the movie Kathy H (Carey Mulligan) says: "We aren't machines"
In such a society, materialism rises as people try to replace the hole where God should be in their life with things. Unfortunately, some people in such a society tend to be thought of as objects to be used for the benefit of the elites and then discarded. It is said that some prisoners in China are made into compulsory organ donors. At one point in the movie, Ruth C (Keira Knightley) speaks of who the donor clones are cloned from:
"We are modeled on trash - junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps, convicts ..."
Such people were often told they weren't worth much when they were younger. But every human being is a being of inestimable worth, created in the Image and Likeness of God, created to enjoy him Eternally:
"Every creature is a word of God ... (destined for) the indestructible joy that transcends even death" - Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)
Near the end of the movie, seeking to get a "deferral" to extend their lives because they are in love, Kathy H and Tommy D (Andrew Garfield) again find themselves in the presence of Hailsham (now closed) headmistress Miss Emily. She rationalizes the evil done to the clones with shortened lives by pointing to the good it brings society: "if you ask people to return to darkness, the days of lung cancer or breast cancer, motor neuron diseases, they'll simply say 'No.'"
But it isn't ethical to do evil that good may come of it (Romans 3:8). The evil is usually put forward as being limited, but almost inevitably it grows.
In an extra on the DVD, novelist Kazuo Ishiguro says that we live short lives on this earth and that we should use them to love and not build up regrets. This is true up to a point. But unfortunately, fallen human beings often go over the line and adopt a hedonistic philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (1 Cor 15:32; Luke 12:19).
Also on an extra, Carey Mulligan says of the movie and life: "the amount of energy people take to not say what they mean ... to hold down everything they feel all the time is exhausting."
If you have regrets and maybe are shy, finding it hard to connect deeply with others, this movie may move you more than you expect.
In the end, we must have a firm belief that our love/s extend beyond this world of suffering, often unjust. Otherwise, despair is eventually a strong possibility.
"The least power of love is already stronger than the greatest power of destruction."
- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict), early 2000s