Sunday, May 24, 2009

Never Let Me Go

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
Premise: A trio growing up in a boarding school discover they are clones grown for the sole purpose of organ donation.
About: Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) directs Keira Knightly in this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel. Garland wrote The Beach, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine. So if you liked any of those scripts, this might interest you.
Writer: Alex Garland

Never Let Me Go is a moving tale about a group of individuals who discover they will only live 1/3 of the life the rest of us do. The premise itself is unimpressive. Organ harvesting storylines dominated the headlines in the late 90s/early 2000s, culminating in the criminally bad Michael Bay directed sci-fi flick "The Island" - which curiously didn't have anything to do with an island. But it's the way the subject matter's addressed here that ultimately saves the script.

A group of friends attend a boarding school that treats its inhabitants like royalty except for a few rules. Anger is discouraged. Diet is strict. And life is ordered. There's an odd haunting quality about the place, as if we're living in the world's most beautiful coffin. Which, for all intents and purposes, we are.

Ruth and Kathy are frenimies. Ruth is the pretty one. She gets all the attention from the boys. And Kathy is the bookish introspective one (who will be played by Knightley when she's older). Tommy, the third member of this group, is a handsome boy with anger issues. We observe this complicated relationship as it evolves over the course of their stay at the school. Kathy confides in Ruth that she likes Tommy and it's clear that Ruth is jealous of their connection. So what does Ruth do? What any good frenimy would do. She asks Tommy out. The two, who couldn't be more wrong for each other, begin a long relationship, fueled by Ruth's desire to keep Kathy away from Tommy.

There aren't a lot of twists and turns in Never Let Me Go. The kids are told of their fate early on. Their organs will be harvested, one or two at a time, and after the third harvesting, somewhere in their 20s, they will die. But they're taught that it's their duty. So while under normal circumstances you'd expect anger or resentment. There is none of that here. Only acceptance.

After school, the organ-crew is allowed out into the real world, and our dysfunctional trio separates, only to meet up again in their early 20s, with Ruth near death, Tommy two donations down, and Kathy still yet to have her first donation. The three try to make up for past mistakes but find that it might be too late.

What was unclear to me is if this was happening in the future or if it was happening in some sort of alternate history. The harvesting is so frank, so non-secretive, that I figured we had to be in a hell of a far-off future. Yet the story had a very contemporary feel to it - so it was difficult to figure out just where we were. I was curious as to why a world would allow something like this to happen. Would a country like England really be okay with killing people for organs?

Never Let Me Go poses some interesting questions. The idea that these people know they're only living a portion of a life and are okay with that is the big one. But while we feel sorry for them, they don't feel sorry for themselves. And it's that fearless approach that keeps this from spiraling into Depressingville. Don't get me wrong, it's still dark stuff. It's just a unique way to approach the material. For that reason, it's worth checking out.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: One of the most tried and true formulas in storytelling is the love triangle. It can be used in any genre and as long as you make each of the individual characters compelling, it almost always works.