Kathy is a child raised in the English boardingschool, Hailsham, before becoming a young woman played by Carey Mulligan in Never Let Me Go (2010)—and Kathy is a clone. So are the other children at Hailsham, among them Kathy’s friend Ruth and the boy she has a crush on, Tommy. Because she doesn’t want to end up alone, Ruth woos Tommy away from Kathy and later provides a mea culpa for it, since she is finally separated from her lover, anyway, by a coercive society. This is because it is determined that Ruth and the other clones will have their vital organs removed that they may benefit those who are sick and injured. They are human beings created by a society that will sacrifice them.
As does the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, this adaptation directed by Mark Romanek recreates past decades as a fantasy world, though one which is recognizably ours. We are told that most major diseases were wiped out by 1952 and that by 1967, human life expectancy was 100. We can figure out for ourselves, however, that moral progress did not match medical progress, in what were in fact post-Hitler, post-Stalin years. It is during the 1990s that Kathy and the others must donate their organs. We are induced to ask: How is moral sanity reached? How is dehumanization in the past prevented from becoming dehumanization in the present? Why is this a world of both English boardingschools (which are generally not for clones) and evil?
“Never let me go” means never let the human individual, even if he or she is a copy, go—into death. But the human individual must go in a strange England which fails to see its postwar spiritual emptiness, its placid acceptance of horrors. It’s an acceptance slowly rising in today’s Western civilization.
Romanek’s film is superlative. It understands the importance of Ishiguro’s themes but is not too cerebral. It is never pretentious. Its tone is sure and its scene composition fine. . .