Review: Never Let Me Go (2011)

Kathy H remember her time at Hailsham in Never Let Me Go

Based on the 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go tells the story of three friends who grow up at a boarding school called Hailsham. These are no ordinary children and Hailsham is no ordinary school. The children here are clones, designed to be organ donors in their adult lives. The story is told through the memories of Kathy, who, now 28, is left thinking about her past.

Kathy, played by the excellent Carey Mulligan, opens up the world of Hailsham and her relationship with her two closest friends, Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield).

Never Let Me Go works as well on screen as it does on paper. Both science fiction and period piece, the film keeps as true to the novel as possible. It successfully recreates the world of Hailsham and its story, in essence, is tragic; the thought of children being created for the sole purpose of dying is quite tough to come to terms with. Cleverly this isn’t what stays at the forefront of the film, the focus instead being the human relationships between its three main characters.

The three leads breathe life into their characters; Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are notable and the tormented and almost unrequited love between the two is heartbreaking. The power of this story is its human relationships and a reminder that these clones are people too.

Kathy is the voice of the film, much as she is in the novel. Carey Mulligan portrays her as a smart girl, who, despite knowing the same information as her friends, always seems like she is a step ahead. Mulligan expertly draws the audience into Kathy’s world and the memories that she has. The sadness in her eyes really shines through on screen. Andrew Garfield is also great as Tommy, the mixed up boy who, despite having loved Kathy for all his life, is easily drawn away from her and into the arms of Ruth, her best friend. Ruth is, for the most-part, a repulsive character – she is manipulative, jealous and possessive and Keira Knightley plays this brilliantly, perfectly portraying her insecurities and stubbornness.

In some ways the film flows better than its literary predecessor. Following the central characters from school, to the cottages, to becoming donors and then their present day it offers a neater story than the fragmented novel that tends to jump as Kathy remembers events or incidents.

Setting the film in the late 70’s through to mid 90’s is perfect as it helps strengthen the human suffering and heartache portrayed. Fans of the novel won’t be disappointed as director Mark Romanek has created a more than worthy film adaptation.

Best performance:

Carey Mulligan as Kathy.

Best scene:

When Kathy and Tommy visit Madame to apply for a deferral.

Best line:

Kathy - 'We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we've lived through, or feel we've had enough time'.

Watch this if you liked:

Remains of the Day, An Education.


Carey Mulligan had to learn how to drive for the role. She did a two-week intensive course, but then failed. The crew often had to use roads that were out of sight so she could drive.

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