Never let me go

Posted: March 13, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized

Never let me go is a beautiful, heartbreaking and somewhat disturbing movie. The movie has fantastic cinematography, soundtrack and sure direction. Here is the trailer; expect spoilers in the discussion below!

Based on the book by the great japanese writer Kasuo Ishiguro, it tells a love story set in an alternate world. Imagine if around the middle of the 20th century mankind had made such breakthroughs in genetic science as to be able to clone any human. In such a world people thought it would be a good idea to actually go ahead and produce clones and keep them living separate from society in order to have matching organs to harvest whenever the original needed. Now life expectancy is well over 100 years, except for the clones of course.

The story follows three kids in a boarding school in England. They live seeemingly normal lives, but something seems a little off. Eventually a teacher breaks the rules and tell them that they will never live to old age, they will at some time in their youth begin donating their organs and will eventually die, which is called in the movie jargon “complete.” At this time they will have fulfilled their goal in life: that of extending the lives of their originals, thus completing their calling in life. At the boarding school, Hailsham, they are well fed and kept healthy, as in a farm while they wait to be butchered. The movie allows several interesting discussions ranging from love and betrayal, to bioethics, family being replaced by governmental institutions, the presence of souls in clones and much more.

The cast is very good, with great young actors Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. We follow this trio (Ruth, Kathy and Tommy), from their childhood to their youth years, as they experience what originals would normally experience, such as love, fear, betrayal and all that jazz, but in a controlled environment. Along with them, we slowly learn the truth about who they are and how short and brutal their lives will be. The story is heartbreaking, Cathy loves Tommy who also seems to love her but Ruth is in the way and the threat of a short life makes it all harder.

There are many interesting matters that can be discussed from this movie, we invite guest posts exploring other nuances of the story. One very interesting issue to discuss in the movie is that of identity and invidivuality. Do those clones have souls? That is actually one of the points of the movie, evidently Hailsham was an experiment to try and determine by their art and behavior whether they were simply meat or if they actually had souls.

The story develops around a certain legend that goes around the clone community, that if you fall in love and prove that you are really in love then you are allowed a few extra years to live. Love would be an exception clause that would extend your life. The characters spend many precious days trying to find the truth about this clause and the possibility of being given more time. This brings up interesting points about humans being much more than simply their genetic code. At one point, a character finds an adult magazine and begins to flip pages frantically; later we learn that she was trying to find the person who originated her DNA. Since she felt sexual urges, she assumed that her original must have been some kind of immoral person. That brings us to another interesting point: to what extent is our behavior determined by our genetics structure? As Christians, we must deny a deterministic view of man, man is morally responsible for his actions regardless of his genetic code.

The movie constantly provokes us to respond: What makes us humans? Is it having original or replicated genes? Is it living long lives? Is it being recognized by society as humans? The clones suffer, of course, with their comprehension that they are not individuals in their own right and that they will never live a full fledged life. Near the end of the movie, when she is a month away from her first donation, the main character reflects and comes to a sudden realization: that whether clones or originals, all will die, all will cease to be. She goes to a beautiful spot in the countryside and says:

“I come here and imagine that this is the spot where everything I’ve lost since my childhood is washed out. I tell myself, if that were true, and I waited long enough then a tiny figure would appear on the horizon across the field and gradually get larger until I’d see it was Tommy. He’d wave. And maybe call. I don’t know if the fantasy go beyond that, I can’t let it. I remind myself I was lucky to have had any time with him at all. What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”

That quote reminds me of Ecclesiastes, in which Solomon muses about how the whole of human experience is but a vapor when considered merely under the Sun. Kathy comes to the conclusion that clones or originals, in the search for meaning their lives are not so differen after all. They may live only 20% of the lifespan of regular humans but they suffer the same things, they are confused, they love, they are heartbroken, they all wished they had more time and they die. Suffering and confusion and glimpses of joy are what make us human. At least under the Sun.

We are blessed, however, to have more than life under the Sun, to live coram Deo, before God. In this way, our frustrations, confusions, glimpses of joy and broken hearts can find meaning in his glorious project of recreating mankind in the likeness of Jesus, we will never be like him, but we will be similar. In the movie they struggle to find out if they are important in spite of being the image of another. Curiously, we are important precisely because we are the image of Someone else. Someone higher and loving who is recreating us. That suffices.


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