Saturday, October 29, 2011

3 short paragraphs: Never Let Me Go

Mark Romanek, 2010 -- netflix

Just released in theatres this weekend is a sci-fi action film starring Justin Timberlake called In Time wherein the conceit is that all of humanity is given 25 years to live from birth and a biological clock to monitor one's time. Time is the currency and addition time can be earned but also must be spent. It's a clever concept with plenty of potential for social commentary, but it's also a little heavy handed. Never Let Me Go is also about people living on borrowed time but far more subtly so. In this alternate British society there is a breed of cloned individuals, called Donors, who are raised in orphanages with the express purpose of giving any body part or organ required of them once they reach maturity (this is not a spoiler but an integral element of the story early on).

This plot may seem somewhat familiar, as the Michael Bay film "The Island" used the same conceit, but rather than escaping and seeking freedom, Donors are raised and schooled to know that this is their existence and there is nothing more for them. It's rare for a Donor to live to 30, generally expiring after two, but sometimes three or four operations. These are second class-citizens, because they're not citizens at all. They're a different breed of cattle, walking and talking, but by and large society prefers not to think of them as people. They're things.

The film follows Ruth, Kathy and Tommy through three stages of their life, first as pre-teens in a boarding school-like institution, following the ritual of their daily lives and their deepening connection with one another. The next stage finds them at the cottages, a shared house with other Donors located outside of a small English town, Ruth and Tommy quite engaged with one another, but Kathy and Tommy's connection from childhood still plaguing them. The third act reunites the trio years after they've been estranged from one another. Tommy and Ruth are both multiple donors at this stage, while Kathy's been spending her time as Carer (essentially compassionate care to the Donors, seeing them through their final operations). Ruth fosters Kathy and Tommy's connection and facilitates the couple's search for the mythical deferral. Based of a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and masterfully adapted by Alex Garland (the Beach, 28 Days Later), director Mark Romanek gets all the details right in developing the society, the characters and their relationships. It's an intriguing and beautiful film, but also depressing as hell.