Never Let Me Go is one of those films that feels deceptively simple or perhaps too abrupt on first viewing, but which broadens and deepens and sticks around in memory long after you leave the theater. The film, directed by Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) and based on the highly acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), is a genre-bending, tender, and provocative gem that should provide plenty of discussion fodder for thoughtful filmgoers.
The story begins at Hailsham, a boarding school somewhere in rural England, full of beautiful, cheerful children who paint pictures in classrooms, play cricket in the field, and sing songs about how great Hailsham is. It's an idyllic community, but something feels off. The students don't seem quite normal (and why no mention of any parents?). One day a rogue teacher, Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), speaks up and gravely informs the students in her class that none of them will grow up to be actors, artists, teachers, or anything. None of them will live past adulthood. Miss Lucy is immediately fired, but the secrets of Hailsham can't be hid forever. As the students grow older, they learn the truth of what Miss Lucy alluded to.
(Mild spoilers ahead, but nothing that wasn't alluded to in the film's official trailer.)
Turns out Hailsham is one of many boarding schools across England where children who were created in labs—that is, as clones—are raised to be healthy physical specimens who will one day (in their twenties) begin the process of donating their organs and body parts, piece by piece, until they "complete" (usually on the third or fourth, but sometimes the first, donation). All along they are taught the dignity of their vocation, the importance of their slow-death ...1