Never Let Me Go

Since I wrote a post about Never Let Me Go, I felt obligated to go see it. In my post, I wrote that the trailer made it look like “one of those self-consciously arty, but decidedly middlebrow, British films”. Well, it turns out that is pretty much what it is, though the word “middlebrow” is perhaps too kind.

The film is set in an alternate universe, in which clones are created and then killed as adults and their organs harvested. (The word “clone” is never actually used in the film. Instead the people are referred to as “donors”.) The donors are required to keep themselves in good health, so they are forbidden to drink or smoke or do drugs; and they live in special residences. What little story this movie has is concerned with a romantic triangle among donors who grow up together: Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley). As adults they hear a rumor that two donors can get a referral if they can prove they are in love with each other. In the film’s climactic scene, Kathy and Tommy tell the former headmistress of the school they went to, Miss Emily (Charlotte Rampling), that they are in love with each other. However, she tells them the story of deferrals is a myth, and there is nothing they can do to change their fate. The film ends with Kathy looking over a field and musing that the lives of people aren’t much different from the lives of donors. Yeah, right.

The problem with this movie is that the behavior of the characters is completely unbelievable. It never occurs to anyone to try to run away or to rebel or even to protest. They don’t even rebel in a passive manner by drinking or doing drugs or smoking. (If you’re only going to live a few years, you might as well smoke.) If the women got pregnant, this would cause problems for the program, yet this never seems to occur to anyone. Because the characters are so unreal, it’s impossible to care about them. The morose background music doesn’t help.

While workers and students are protesting against neoliberalism in France, art house movie theaters in the U.S. are showing a film about people who meekly accept their exploitation and murder. This is one of the things that are wrong with this country.

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