Never Let Me Go
(M) Fox DVD/BD
Perhaps a society truly becomes lost when it doesn’t know how lost it is.
This is the eerie suggestion put forward by Never Let Me Go, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
The alternative Britain that the story portrays isn’t a typical rainy dystopia. Instead it’s an apparently tranquil, progressive world where tedious paperwork and restrained euphemisms conceal the horror beneath: where one group of people is systematically sacrificed to meet the needs of the rest. It’s a world where the right questions are no longer asked.
Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) have an idyllic childhood. Growing up at Hailsham boarding school, their lives are barely even marred when they are told of a dark fate awaiting them in early adulthood.
Far more real are the everyday concerns of friendship, and the unspoken love triangle already forming between them.
But as the years pass, their grim destiny looms ever closer. Will they try to escape it or even learn to seize upon the short time that they have?
While audiences may be shocked by the moral norms accepted by the world created in Never Let Me Go, if the last few decades have taught us anything, it’s that society no longer adheres to absolutes.
What are the moral blind spots that we see in the world around us?
If human history has taught us anything it’s that evil can easily be called a necessity, even normal.
Even more distressing is that this film fights against our long history of heroes battling evil.
Tommy, the most hopeful of the trio, doesn’t get beyond the prospect of being granted a few more years. His question is never one of reprieve, only deferral.
It simply never enters his mind that his fate is brutally unjust, because his highest authority is the society that has shaped his worldview.
There is no still small voice assuring him that, despite what he might have been told, he is a precious individual with a soul.
For Christians this world would seem oppressive and nihilistic but in some ways this film offers a glimpse into a world without God, without the grace and mercy available to us in a living relationship with God.
The compelling performances of the three lead actors only serve to underscore what we feel by instinct anyway — that every human is unique and every life has value.
For this reason, it is utterly devastating when Kathy and Tommy are confronted by what their society really thinks of them. “We didn’t have to look into your souls,” they are told. ‘We had to see if you had souls at all.’
The film takes its title from a song that Kathy listens to in her loneliest moments. As a child, we see her cradling her pillow as the lyrics speak of her deepest yearning: Darling, hold me and never let me go.
This is one of those films that will linger a long time after you see it, primarily because, as alien as its dystopian view of the world is, it’s not far off the mark.
For, like the generation it represents, everyone aches for lasting love, connection and affirmation, even as the world would often deny us this. But in Christ there is hope.