Never Let Me Go: Clones, Completion, and Chemistry


By Meilan Solly
At a seemingly perfect English boarding school, three children named Kathy H., Tommy D., and Ruth grow up like regular children. They attend lessons taught by adults called guardians; they play ball games in the endless fields at the school, which is called Hailsham; they paint pictures during art class; and they fall in “love” with each other. While Hailsham students appear to be completely normal, in reality they are most unlike regular children.
Never Let Me Go is based on the book of the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro. It features a superb cast of Carey Mulligan (Kathy H.), Andrew Garfield (Tommy D.), and Keira Knightley (Ruth).  There is tangible chemistry between the three main characters, which is necessary to convey the true feeling of the story.
When Hailsham students are growing up, they are told a little bit about who they really are. The truth, however, is fed to them in a way that makes them fairly oblivious to its real meaning. The students dream of going to America and becoming movie stars or teachers, but their dreams begin to fade when one conflicted guardian decides to tell them everything about their real purposes. Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) starts off her life-changing speech by describing the students’ various hopes and dreams and ends it by telling them they are clones bred to be organ donors for real humans and thus will never achieve their dreams. The students start their donations in their early twenties, and by their 3rd or 4th donations, they “complete.”
Soon after Miss Lucy makes this announcement, she leaves Hailsham, and life continues much in the same way it always does. Young Kathy H. (Isobel Meikle-Small) becomes the first person to really be nice to Tommy D. (Charlie Rowe), who tends to throw gigantic temper tantrums. Before long, Kathy H. develops a crush on Tommy, but her best friend Ruth (Ella Purnell) then decides that she likes Tommy, and what Ruth wants, Ruth gets.
As the Hailsham students enter their late teen years, they are sent to various places around England. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth go to the Cottages. Ruth and Tommy continue their relationship, and Kathy mostly keeps to herself. Harry Potter fans will enjoy seeing Domhnall Gleeson, also known as Bill Weasley, play one of the students at the Cottages. Life continues in the same vein for a while, with only a few tantalizing rumors floating around to keep life exciting. One rumor tells of deferrals, which are said to be ways to push back the date donations start. All one must do to get a deferral is prove that they are truly in love with another clone. The rumor says Hailsham students are the ones who know all about deferrals and how to get them, but the Cottages are the first place any Hailsham students hear about deferrals.
Later, Kathy H. decides to leave the cottages and become a carer, someone who helps donors during the course of their donations. Ruth and Tommy break up, and the three ex-Hailsham students decide to follow their own paths. Several years later, however, the three are destined to meet again, and this time Ruth will finally try to right all her wrongs, Kathy H. may get her fairy tale ending after all, and Tommy revisits his temper tantrum-filled past.
All three main actors did fantastic jobs in this movie. Andrew Garfield, however, was the clear stand-out. He portrayed Tommy D. perfectly, capturing his slight awkwardness and cluelessness with body language, and his last temper tantrum is guaranteed to bring tears to anyone’s eyes. Carey Mulligan did a great job of showcasing Kathy’s demure and easily walked over personality, and Keira Knightley made Ruth into the passionate character audiences will dislike, hate, and forgive throughout the movie.
My favorite part of Never Let Me Go was the scene where the audience found out how the movie got its name. One day soon after Kathy befriends Tommy, there is a sale where students can buy little knick knacks like dolls and spinning tops. Tommy finds a cassette tape and gives it to Kathy, who thanks him for it with a kiss on the cheek. Kathy soon becomes obsessed with one of the songs on the tape. It’s called “Never Let Me Go,” and features a chorus that says, “Darling/ Hold me/ and never (never)/ Let me go.”  The song sounds like something that would have been released in the 1950’s, and its vintage feel gives both Kathy H. and me comfort.
Overall, Never Let Me Go is a tragic story. The acting is wonderful and the script is very well written. The story is, however, a tad too disturbing for my taste. There’s no doubt that the movie is touching, and I’m fairly certain most people will shed at least one tear during the scene showing one main character’s completion, but the whole premise of society being troubled enough to create people just to kill them is controversial and a bit agitating.
I would give this movie a 7.5/10 rating because the story is conveyed beautifully, but the topic and one highly graphic scene are cons of watching Never Let Me Go. My advice is to watch the movie, but be prepared to have a good cry and feel a bit angry at society once the movie’s over.