Movie Review: Never Let Me Go (2011)

Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek, 2011) – A boarding school in Hailsham prepares their students for the approaching harsh reality of their future.


Accomplished by director Mark Romanek’s provocative and evocative vision, Kazuo Ishiguro’s literary masterpiece is now also a filmic one.



The first thing that the children at Hailsham learnt is that they are special. There, they begin to hope and dream. Reality soon tears them away from ambition as they realise they were never living for themselves, but for the lives of others. The cruel revelation challenges them to redefine their lives now shadowed by nihilism.

Never Let Me Go is a story that poses big questions: Who are we, and what defines us? How would you choose to face the forced relinquishment of freewill and unjustly shortened mortality?

At Hailsham, no one is truly privy to the right answers. The students look to love for answers, believing in reprieves granted for their human emotions and placing desperate faith in a world that had abandoned them. Each setback renders their hope false and the retreat from once-tantalising dreams seems inevitable.

Through the powerful emotions of the cast, we connect with their sunken world. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are the stand-outs. Both Mulligan and Garfield gently interprets genuine innocence in their pursuit for reprieve. When Garfield breaks down and screams into the night sky, every harrowing bit of his anguish is palpable and heartrending.

Cast aside, Kazuo Ishiguro’s thought-provoking novel could not have found a better crew. 28 Days Later/Sunshine writer Alex Garland never neglects character-driven drama in his science fiction plot, while One Hour Photo is testament to director Mark Romanek’s understanding of the human spirit. Bringing the characters to life, their combined talent play well against the serene score and exceptional cinematography.

It is nothing new for science fiction to touch on the contentious morality of cloning, though dazzling technology sometimes overshadows these messages. Without the distraction of holograms or machines, Never Let Me Go focuses on very human characters and speaks to our modern society’s definition of a successful life built on great expectations.

In their artificial lifespans, we easily find truths of our own mortality. The insightful reflection on the curious human psyche turns out just as beautiful and moving in words as it is now on-screen.

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