Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

never let me go movie stills

“You will become adults, but only briefly. Before you are old, before you are even middle-aged, you will start to donate your vital organs. That’s what you were created to do. And sometime around your third or fourth donation, your short life will be complete.”
– Miss Lucy

A medical breakthrough in 1952 has changed the world, changed the way people live, lengthening life spans, fostering longevity and health. But at what cost? In the 1970’s, Kathy H (Isobel Meikle-Small) attends Hailsham, a boarding school, with her best friend Ruth (Ella Purnell). Kathy becomes infatuated with a young boy that seems to be the social outcast. His name is Tommy (Charlie Rowe), and the two become very close. The three become rather close, though the school is strange and bizarre. The students are not taught math and science, but instead spend copious amounts of time on artwork which they will submit the best work to the Gallery, run by Madame (Nathalie Richard). Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) joins the teaching staff, and she informs the students of their purpose in life: they are there to be harvested for organs. They will “complete” in early adulthood, which is just a nice way of saying they will die.

never let me go hearing the truth
“You have to know who you are, and what you are. It’s the only way to lead decent lives.” – Miss Lucy

Ruth manages to snatch Tommy away from Kathy, which hurts her, but life must go on. The three graduate from Hailsham and go live at the cottages, where they will live among other donors. Kathy (Carey Mulligan) feels very left out at the cottages, where the other students seem to have partners and lives, despite their fate. Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) are still in a relationship, with Kathy being the ever-present third wheel. From other former students, the rumours of “deferral” reach their ears, meaning that if a couple is in love and they can prove it, they can possibly get a short reprieve from starting to donate. Kathy, meanwhile, battles to deal with Tommy and Ruth and their sexual relationship, ultimately leaving to become a carer, someone who takes care of other donors and comforts them, meaning she will wait a while longer.

Shortly after leaving the cottages and starting her job, Tommy and Ruth break up. Kathy does not see Tommy or Ruth again, but a decade later comes across Ruth, who has gone through two donations and is not looking very good. The two spend some time together, and later meet up with Tommy, who is looking pretty good despite also having been through a couple of donations. Ruth apologizes to Kathy and Tommy for having kept them apart, and encourages them to seek the rumoured deferral so that they may actually have some time together, going as far as to provide them with an address for Madame. Tommy and Kathy spend more and more time together, though Tommy is getting weaker. He is immensely excited, working on his artwork, sure that it will prove that he and Kathy deserve the deferral, that they are destined to be together.

never let me go the beach
“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed.” – Kathy

Will they be granted the deferral? Will they get to finally spend some time together, after always having loved one another? Has Ruth made up for her past regressions in time? What will Tommy and Kathy be judged on to earn the deferral? When will Kathy have to end her job as a carer and complete the purpose for which she was made?

never let me go deferral

GRADE 7This was a suggestion from Table 9 Mutant of Cinema Parrot Disco, who gave it to me an age ago (yes, yes), but I have a watch list that is ridiculously long and sometimes I really just need a kick to get to something. Well, she finally kicked enough and I got to it. Now, the story for this is something I expected rather soon in, I could see how the plot was going to move with that and what the point of the school and the children were. I thought that Kathy and Tommy were so cute together, and it was highly predictable that Kathy’s best friend, Ruth, would swoop in to usurp Tommy (women’s logic: I want that man, not a man like that). I did not think it fair, though, that only Ruth bore the blame of having kept Tommy and Kathy apart, as Tommy could have nut up at any time and left her. But whatever. I enjoyed Carey Mulligan in here, and Andrew Garfield was absolutely adorable as always (yes, Eric and Brian, the little girl he is and all). Keira Knightly annoyed me in here, she had a character I could in no which way connect with, even by the end, I had not one shred of pity for her. Probably doesn’t help that I am not a fan of her acting, either. The movie left me feeling as though it was a missed opportunity by the end of it as it simply didn’t resonate. It had all the opportunity to, the opportunity for rebellion, for total unhappiness, for a fight, and instead everyone seemed content just to accept their roles and moved on, which peeved me. I cannot stand spinelessness, to be very honest. Weakness annoys the hell out of me. It was shot nicely, and everything had a dreary feel to it. As Natasha says, this was a very British type of film. I would recommend you watch it – while nothing revolutionary or new, it was decent for what it was. My mission now? To read the book, to see if it fleshes some things out a little bit more, making the story a little bit more fulfilling.

29 thoughts on “Review: Never Let Me Go (2010)

  1. This is some dark and depressing stuff here. However, I think that’s what works the most. It takes place in a cold, sad and unhappy world that can be long for some, while short-as-hell for others. Good review Zoe.


  2. I never got the chance to see this one but the premise always really intrigued me. Great review, Zoe. I’m going to have to give this one a watch!


    1. Thanks a lot Ryan! It is pretty interesting, I won’t lie. I hope you get to it sometime, and I would love to hear what you think about it (even if you don’t review, you have to let me know :D)


  3. I thought this film was quite touching and even though it’s a derivative plot, the performances were fresh and believable. I was really sad when the kids discovered the truth about the hoped-for deferments. Carey Mulligan’s so good in this, and it’s my favorite Andrew Garfield characterization.


    1. Thanks for dropping by. It was awfully sad to see their reactions. It was such a shattering moment, truly. Mulligan was perfect for her role, and I always enjoy watching Andrew Garfield.


  4. My Dearest Dearest JB,

    Believe it or not I have wanted to watch this but never got around to it. I’m intrigued by the three female leads 🙂

    I’ll let you know if I ever get to it 🙂




  5. I wondered about this one! Seems like it’s decent–worth it for Garfield if nothing else, huh? I’m not big on Knightley either, so I may or may not give it a try…but good review, lady!! 🙂


  6. This is one of those films that really stuck with me. Part of that is the premise and setting, but mostly it’s Andrew Garfield’s acting. He was amazing in this and, personally, I think he’s one the best actors working at the moment. Boy A, which he’s the lead in, is also a (depressing) gem.


  7. Yay! Glad to see your review finally (and, I don’t mean “finally” in a bad way – you know how far behind I myself am on the blogging & especially the reviewing thing. Yikes!!!). Glad you enjoyed it okay. : ) I’d never call it a favorite movie but I liked the concept a lot and am certainly interested in reading the book someday. I loved how the trailers gave NOTHING away and made it look like some boring English period drama. Ugh. I, too, hated Knightley & her character (although I hate her in everything so I think it’s just HER). Love the other two, though – they’re why I watched this. Well, that and the fact that it’s my favorite genre. : ) Great review! Glad you at least didn’t totally hate something I recommended. Lol. I’d have felt bad!! : )


    1. Teehee, I know what you mean. I review a lot of things then they chill in my drafts folder for an age hahaha. Yeah, the concept was really good, and I would like to see if the book clears some things up a bit. I never watched the trailers lol. I also think it is just her… I am not a fan either.

      No, didn’t hate it. Definitely worth the watch, it’s very odd. Depressing, though. Thanks a lot!


  8. Glad you watched it! I remember when it was suggested. I think it was when Spiderman fever was raging.I think the book sounds really promising, I’d love to read it too, if you do read it, please review. 🙂


    1. LOL that’s when it was insisted upon that I watch it! I think the book might have more to offer, so I would like to find out. I am just drowning under a pile of books at the moment. Let me wade through them then I will get to that one. But of course I will!


      1. Yes I know and getting to books is much harder than a tv show or movie. I am deep in Game of Thrones so I am have a hard time pulling away to read anything else. You would be so proud of me! I am almost done with book 1.


      2. It really is! YAY! Are you reading with Cara and I?! AWESOME! YOU GO GIRL! I just started with A Clash of Kings this week sometime (not that I have had much time to continue after that, but whatever). You must keep me informed as to how it is going!


      3. Oh yes for sure! I am having a hard time reading anything else. I am about 50 pages away from finishing book 1 and I have book 2 ready to go. I would love to catch up by the time the show starts, but we will see! Yay book club girls. 🙂


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