Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Being Complete

As most of you will know, Never Let Me Go is a film that not too long ago hit U.K. cinemas, and it seems to me that everyone who sees it loves it. Adapted from the book of the same title, this phenomenon is so thought-provoking and so tear-jerking that it is hard not to love it.

Let me give you a blurb: it is split into three parts. These are when the children are Hailsham; when they are adults; and when they are donors, a decade later than the previous part. The central characters are Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley), who are all pupils at Hailsham. Hailsham is a boarding school of a sort, but it is not just that. It is where children, clones, are brought up to be healthy, fit, and ready to donate organs when they reach the right age. These children are modelled on other people: their 'originals', though they are never told who these 'originals' are. Kathy, Tommy and Ruth are all in the same boat in this respect.

Relationships develop and are carried on through the second part, altering when the story reaches the third part. What is so hard to watch about this film, and I mean this in a good way, is watching these helpless children being filtered through this fictional (don’t worry – none of this is real) system of guiltless stealing of something so vital to a human being as their insides. You sit there and you watch as the characters clock in and out of their homes, monitored every second of every day of every year of their lives. And the only person who has the decency to tell them about their cruel fate is immediately ostracized from Hailsham.

But we have to think – what is it that is so awful about their lives? Kathy becomes a carer in the third part of the film, meaning that she lives for a while without having to donate. But really – as she points out so truthfully, everyone is going to die in the end. As depressing and solemn a thought as it may be, we must admit it to ourselves. The characters in the film – Kathy, Tommy and Ruth – all go through similar experiences to us. They fall in love, they make and break friendships, they become, debatably, more independent and autonomic. They grow up. The fact that their lives are more concise, that they "complete" earlier, only means that they leave on a high. They don’t have to worry about wrinkles and about how their marriage is falling apart because it was a shot-gun wedding when they were 18. They are spared the figurative, certainly not literal, gore of it all. Their lives can still be viewed as 'complete'. But doesn’t that sound superficial, when I say that? What does everyone else think of the philosophical, and more importantly, ethical issues raised by this film? Go and see it. It’s only a tenner or so. Carpe diem.

By Jess


  1. Is it better to have loved and lost then never to have loved?

    Or more specifically in this instance, is it better to live perhaps a less, some might describe 'complete' life than not live?

    Ah the questions.

  2. To the first question: I personally think the former option is better. At least you have experienced an inevitable part of life and learnt from it. Whereas if you have never loved - what is the point of living? Just to sit around and watch others' experiences... whether it be painful or not.

    To the second question... when phrased like that it's more difficult to answer. I think that one has to be left unanswered (...i.e. I don't know the answer)

  3. I like the book. Haven't seen the film...

    It does make you think though... it's just so hard cause it's so unjust, and as you get to know them it seems unbelievable that the rest of the world don't think of them as people with 'souls', and could deny their existence and humanity so easily.

    Then again, this attitude isn't so different from the one that permitted some of the 20th century genocides... hmmm..

    I also kept thinking: why don't they just let them live a full life and then just take all of their organs when they die? They'd still get a full influx of them, at the same rate. Hmph.