Directed by Mark Romanek, this is a film adaptation of a book of the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro. It's a story set in an unthinkable alternate universe, themed on doomed love and hope.
It begins at the end, with Kathy (Carey Mulligan) watching doctors prepare a patient for operation. The rest is shown from the beginning, at an English boarding school. It is slowly revealed that there is something nefarious afoot, given the unusual attitudes of absolutely everyone. There are no visitors, strict medical exams and the children are made to be terrified of ever leaving school grounds, even to retrieve a lost ball. This is where Kathy (her younger self is played by Izzy Meikle-Small), her best friend Ruth (younger version played by Ella Purnell) and a soft-hearted misfit named Tommy (younger version played by Charlie Rowe) meet and form a bond that will last for the rest of their short lives.
Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), a young governess at the school, has a moment of conscience and tells the children the truth about themselves. They are donors, clones bred to donate their vital organs forcefully, while still alive. Time passes rapidly from this point, and Kathy, Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) are sent to live at a secluded cottage with some other donors until they are ready to begin donating. Tommy and Ruth become a couple, which breaks Kathy's heart, and as a result she signs up to be a Carer, somebody designated to comfort and assist donors throughout their ordeals.
Years later, she eventually re-unites with Tommy and Ruth, who are already into the donation process with not long to live, and has a short-lived romance with Tommy. Hoping to enjoy a few short years together, they look into a rumour circulating about deferrals for couples who are in love. It turns out to be a lie, and they prepare for their deaths.
This is a movie that is made to make you feel despair, and it does this extremely well. The sun never shines on dystopian England, happy moments seem muted and the theme of death permeates every interaction. The characters work very well together, though much of the movie feels like a depressing and angst-ridden high school drama.
Some interesting imagery is involved in this film. The characters' hair lengths change in relation to their stage in the donation process. In youth they have long hair, and near the times of their deaths they have very short hair. However, this movie had a feel of propaganda to it, as though it were trying to make some bold statement on the importance of medical ethics.
If not for the graphic imagery and adult themes, I'd suggest this movie for families with unruly children. The suggestion of English boarding school after seeing this movie might be enough to scare a decade's worth of 1950s nuclear family bliss into some.
-The Secrets of Never Let Me Go
-Mark Romanek's On-Set Photography
-National Donor Programme & Hailsham Campaign Graphics
– Theatrical Trailer