Howdy folks! Did you guys read this book? I did. I like Kazuo Ishiguro’s spare, minimalist writing style. A friend sort of gave it away when she was trying to get me to read it. I was intrigued anyway and finished it quickly. It’s not fast-paced or very action-y, but it does make you think about what it is to be human. Is humanity humane when they conceive and raise these poor souls to only use them to serve their own selfish needs? Just because you are able to do something on a scientific level, should you? Where is the morality and ethics? It’s part mystery, part sci-fi, period piece with a little tragic love story thrown in.
Mark Romanek, 90’s video directing god, turns a vaguely sinister book, into a melancholic, melange of muted colors, and blurred ethical lines, “Never Let Me Go,” 2010. I know it’s a little dark and depressing for summer, but here goes.
In 1952 medical science can cure everything. People live past 100 on average. How is this possible? Donors. Donors are people bred and raise to, well, donate parts of their bodies to non-donors. When they run out of useful parts, they run out their clock. They “complete.” Carers are from the same stock of people donors are, but their job is to take care of the donors until it’s time for them to start donating their own parts.
The really cruel part is that the donors are well taken care of, have an almost normal childhood, raised in a prim English boarding school, minus a lot of love and attention. As they grow and mature, they are unaware of their true purpose in life.
Idyllic, serene, school. Quite the opposite of its purpose.
The school uniforms also underscore the sameness of purpose for these girls. They were all created to donate. I do love the layering, don’t you? Especially with the tie.
Ruth, Keira Knightley, Kathy, Carey Mulligan, and Tommy, Andrew Garfield, grow up in Hailsham, a boarding school of sorts, in the 1970’s. One day, their teacher Miss Lucy, tells them point blank that they were made to donate their vital organs, and when they cannot donate anymore they will be left to die. Miss Lucy is quickly fired, but the cat is out of the bag by then.
Miss Lucy. She bridges the light of knowledge and the darkness of ignorance.
The women’s hair color, clothing color blend into the woodwork. They are part of the vast institution that controls these children’s lives.
The three of them leave Hailsham by 1985 and arrive at The Cottages, a rural way station on their way to their donating careers.
Kathy leaves the protected shell of childhood behind.
The Cottages are set in the countryside. Again a quiet, natural setting to contrast their scientifically manipulated existence.
Color punctuates the muted tones for a change. They finally get to meet new people and explore their world on their own terms.
Ruth and Kathy struggle to eek out new identities as adults. I love the random stained glass squares.
Their cozy, nubby, woolen sweaters makes me feel they are still protected from their environment in The Cottages.
The colors in this film are so beautiful. I do think it’s a great alternative palette to dark fall/winter colors. Rich neutrals mixed with pastels for a pop of color.
Beautiful. Even the metals are as soft and delicate as this bird.
Kathy leaves The Cottages, Ruth and Tommy, on her way to becoming a carer.
At The Cottages, Ruth, Tommy and Kathy heard a rumor that couples from Hailsham could get a deferral of their donations if they could prove they were in love. Since they were from Hailsham, but never heard of this before, they didn’t believe it. As time passed, Ruth finds the address of their former Head Mistress, Miss Emily, and gives it to Kathy and Tommy as a token of apology. Ruth always knew they were meant to be together, but she claimed Tommy first, fearing she’d die alone.
They meet up one last time on a road trip. Again, their clothes match the colors of their natural environment. They belong here, they’re not subhuman.
They spot a beached boat in the distance.
The boat is a metaphor for their existence.
They are trapped, marooned in this life. They have almost outlived their use, as the sunset implies.
Ruth, as she feared, dies alone after her third donation. Kathy and Tommy find Miss Emily, and with heartbreaking naivety, ask for a deferral. Tommy shows Miss Geraldine, another school Mistress, his drawings. At Hailsham, the children were always asked to contribute to The Gallery. It was always mysterious. What was it for? Tommy guessed that The Gallery must’ve been a way of showing what was in their souls. That the powers that be must look over the art to be convinced that the couple is in love and worthy of a deferral. Miss Emily calmly explains that getting a deferral was always just a rumor, never true. The Gallery was just to convince people that they were in fact, human enough to create art. They all will start donating until completion. No chance to be fully human.
On the way home Tommy breaks down. It reminded me of Munch’s, The Scream, though with less horror and more despair. It’s dark. Tommy’s time is up.
A short time after Tommy’s completion, Kathy gets notice that her donations will start in a month.
Did part of me want them to get some guns and shoot their way outta England? Take down The Man? Liberate all donors? Of course I did! But alas, it’s not that kind of movie.
In a way, it reminds me of “Blade Runner.” Being able to continue living were all that Roy and Rachel wanted. Ishiguro, in a such a simple manner, wrote about the bleakness of living a conscious life. We are born. We become adults and realize we will die someday. We don’t know when or how, but it’s inevitable. There is no way out of it. Try to do good, prove that your soul is so good it should live for an eternity to some mysterious authority? Um, nah. It doesn’t really matter does it? It doesn’t buy you more time. I’m getting depressed as I type this right now. Oy.
Live as fully as possible. Love as much as possible so when you do die, you know you loved and were loved. And that’s all that really matters.