Friday night is usually our “Dinner and Movie” night, but last night was different. Millie and I carried on while Josh was sequestered away studying for Step 1, which is is just 13 days away. I really love to discuss the movie afterward, so being without the husband was a shame. This is a great movie to discuss. Its mystery and aesthetic cinematography kept me sustained throughout this coming-of-age, dystopian film.
“The film begins with onscreen captions explaining that a medical breakthrough in 1952 has permitted the human lifespan to be extended beyond 100 years” (Wikipedia). Then, the focus turns to British children carrying on with daily activities at Hailsham, a boarding school. It proceeds to focus on three characters: Kathy (the protagonist), Ruth, and Tommy. The boarding school life seems idyllic, but, of course, we know it’s not–thanks to the eerie mood and movie cover summary. In short, these characters become increasingly aware of their existence and fate: They are clones produced to be organ donors for the rest of humanity. The one teacher that painfully tells them the truth in terms they can understand (“You will never go to America….you will never reach middle age) is fired for her “subversive ways.” When they are children, Kathy, a passive and introspective girl, makes a connection with Tommy, a boy who is often teased by the others. It is obvious that these two have true love, but Ruth, a bossy yet insecure girl, ends up forming the romantic relationship with Tommy. The fact that they are now dealing with impending death and love creates a heavy mixture of pathos. Without revealing the ending, I will move onto some of the themes and discussion points.
With My Sister’s Keeper and this movie (both are books that turned into movies), I see a new genre evolving: something dealing with medical ethics and all the emotions that ensue. The debates that arise from topics in medical ethics, such as cloning, bring out a truth about our human existence. The more scientific we become, the more introspective we tend to be. Isn’t this an interesting paradox? With Never Let Me Go, we are introduced to the morality of cloning. And, I think it’s safe to say that we would all agree (liberals and conservatives alike) that cloning, at least for humans, is downright unethical. Cloning a human would not form a mass a cells, but a life with a soul.
On the next level, we are introduced to the question of “When do we sacrifice a few lives for the good of the masses?” When Kathy and Tommy are urged by a repentant Ruth, who is about to “complete” after her second donation, to get a “deferral” since they are in love, they are told by the now-retired headmaster that humanity is not ready to turn back. These donors are needed for the rest of society to maintain the higher quality of life that is now expected. And last, Kathy poses a question at the end for anyone who missed that great introspective truth of our human existence: Is her fate really different than those who receive her organs? In the end, we all “complete” anyway. Thus, the take-away message would be to live life to its fullest. Ironically, the clones of society have actually learned to live a more human-like existence because they understand death and the brevity of life. Yet, it’s still dissatisfying and is bound to make viewers walk away asking, “Is this it? We need to live realizing that we are going to die?” Sure, it can lend to a deeper, richer life here on earth, but that God-sized hole still exists.
What I would like everyone to know is that, yes, it’s true that we must live with brevity in mind. This allows us to drink deeply and live fully; however, this is not it. There is life after death. The fact that we have such a yearning to find rich meaning in our existence reveals that our souls are experiencing a thirst for eternity, and God, in his tender mercy, is leading us to search for Him. C.S. Lewis summed it up well when he said, “Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” So, perhaps we have the premonition that our lives our short; this just leads to a humanistic existence. But, pair this premonition with the fact that this is just a foretaste of an eternity that can be spent with Jesus Christ, and this leads to a meaningful existence.
(*Heads up–Unfortunately, this film includes some nudity; you’ll be able to fast forward through these parts without missing anything crucial to the film.)