Science fiction is a genre that seems to divide people. Some love the concepts, worlds and ideas it explores. Others find its aesthetic and removal from the real world too much to take. However, there are films which have managed to ‘do’ science fiction in such a way one forgets they are even in the genre. Some recent examples might include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Children of Men. Never Let Me Go sits nicely alongside them in that category.
The film concentrates on three friends at what initially appears to be a fairly normal boarding school in England. Kathy (Carey Mulligan) narrates their journey from adolescence into adulthood. Through the years we see her jealousy as her best friend Ruth (Keira Knightley) ends up with the object of her affections Tommy (Andrew Garfield).
Meanwhile, we come to realise the boarding school they attend isn’t as normal as we had first thought. A new teacher in the school (Sally Hawkins) voicing concern over the methods used to control these ‘special’ children.
Never Let Me Go is a film completely committed to maintaining its strange atmosphere. The characters are subject to some pretty horrific things, yet they handle them with a deeply troubling reserve; as though the very idea of rebellion had never occurred to them.
I found this idea interesting thematically. We’re so used to characters in films standing up against their circumstances and not taking ‘no’ for an answer. And yet in real life, often we simply accept the things we don’t like, and just do our best to muddle through. What’s happening in the Middle East at the moment is so newsworthy because it’s so rare.
Alongside this theme is the love triangle between Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Kathy’s attitude towards Tommy and Ruth is likewise one of stagnant acceptance. As though the nature of their education has made them impotent to following their desires.
Never Let Me Go is not an easy film to watch. Its juxtaposition of the innocence of the characters amongst the horror of what they experience makes for a very troubling and tragic tale. Finally, the moving performances of Mulligan, Knightley and Garfield bring a necessary human emotion often lacking in the science fiction genre.