Never Let Me Go is Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel, recently adapted to film. I read the book a few years ago, and watched the film the other night. The film had a much stronger impact due to its visual nature. (I must admit that the scene of Ruth’s completion kept me awake at night and the whole film put me off organ donation slightly.)
I read that the book has been given a science fiction award, but I’d call it more a psychological novel than science fiction. (I’ve learnt that Nineteen Eighy-Four belongs to the “social science fiction” genre though, and so must Clockwork Orange, which has a few parallels with NLMG) There is a love story in the plot, and the setting intensifies this element.
NLMG raises philosophical questions about what it means to be human – to have a soul – and how valuable it is to have control over your life. Maybe that could be the starting point – Ishiguro has captured modern individual’s paranoia with losing control.
I found the film to be a good adaptation – the scenes have been selected really well. One of the scenes that stayed with me from the book was Kathy scanning porn magazines in the shed, I’m glad that it was a key element in the film.
From the book, I remember the scene where Kathy, Ruth and Tommy go to see the beached boat. I hadn’t given much thought to the boat itself, but while watching the film I realized its allegorical significance. I think it could be interpreted as a wreck (standing for their bodies, after the donations) and also as an empty vessel (also their bodies, supposedly devoid of a soul).
I noticed only one point where the film departs from the book, and that’s when Tommy buys the Judy Bridgewater cassette as a gift for Kathy from the sale in Hailsham. (In the book, it’s Kathy who buys it for herself, and then loses it, then Tommy buys another one for her.) This way, the phrase “Never Let Me Go” sounds like a message from Tommy to Kathy, who doesn’t leave him alone until the last minute, although it’s very difficult for her to keep positive as she does with her other donors.
The film portrays Kathy as a much more mature character than the rest – even in Hailsham – and Tommy not so much, and actually as a clumsy person with problems expressing himself. I didn’t discern such a gap between the two as I was reading the book. Ruth, played by Keira Knightley, was as despicable as I’d imagined her to be – such a good match.
The points that the film conveyed successfully include how Hailsham students feel like fish out of water in the outside world, and how “normal” people view them with suspicion. As I was reading the book, I remember being really nervous when they visit Madame at the end of the book – although I somehow knew that they wouldn’t be able to get a deferral. In the film, however, I dreaded the scene where Tommy would have a last rage. Overall, that’s a film that is definitely going to stay with me, and I’m buying the Remains of the Day when I next go to a bookshop.