If you had the opportunity to never get sick, never have cancer, and live well into your 100’s would you? What if you knew there was more to it? That in order to achieve such a monumental thought, that we, today, strive for every minute, every second of every day to eradicate such pestilence in the world takes one special being, a donor. A donor is a person who is there for you in case you need something to keep yourself healthy, no matter what the cost is to them personally. It lives you to question what makes us who we are. In this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiuro’s (The Remains of the Day) novel about three lives from childhood to adulthood through the secrets of life that we take for granted. It is as the say complete in a stories true sense, it is born, it lives, its ends, and it does it in an admirable fashion.
Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) directs a story that makes you question what is good for the benefit of all humanity and what is humanity. Translating the words of page to screen is Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) bringing us the verbal medley of thought provoking cinema. Together with an stellar cast of Carey Mulligan (An Education, Brothers) as quiet Kathy, Andrew Garfield (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Boy A) the ever questioning Tommy, and Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) as worldly adventurous Ruth. Together they all delve deep into our psyche and make us cringe, wonder, cry, and become introspective of ourselves.
The time is an alternate line from what we live in. It is possible to live well into your 100’s and virtually no dieses are present. But it takes a special few to make that possible. Welcome to Hailsham boarding school. The students are for not without what they need to keep them bright, creative and more importantly, healthy. Kathy (Mulligan) and Ruth (Knightley) are friends from the beginning, always chatting with each other about everything from their imagination, artwork and yes boys. Tommy (Garfield) is the seen as the misfit of the school, picked last to play games or not very artistic to his fellow classmates. It is in how Tommy is treated that Kathy starts to see him in a different light but she is not the only one. Ruth takes a liking to Tommy as well and makes an advance before Kathy can. There is something amiss though when a new teacher quickly learns that unlike herself and most of the people she knows, destiny has already been chosen for these young minds. They cannot be a race car driver, actor, or teacher but are pre chosen to be donors. With this news the three live their lives connected together by a strong desire of love, hate, and respect.
Trying to put into words how this story is imagined on the screen is baffling for me. I applaud Romanek and Garland bringing together a talented group of actors to put a little bit of a morality thought into our minds. With the forte of the production crew bringing a world to life that in some ways mirrors what we as a society are going through now. Whether it is the blandness of the sets and costuming to blend in the era they are portraying to the photography feeling more like a documentary. It all plays well with each other, making you focus on the true reason you’re sitting in the theater, to see a story about life.
Carey Mulligan winds her way into your thoughts through her narration of Kathy and the recollections of her time with Ruth and Tommy. So innocent and pure in thought it leaves and eerie feeling inside you, knowing her destiny is planned. Carey does a remarkable portrayal of the innocence of life. It is as though she taps into your heart and shows you the true nature of this film. Andrew Garfield playing Tommy delves into that thought we have of what is our purpose in life. What is inside us that makes us who we are and what we do. He is kind of the rebel that is looking for his purpose and striving to be better even when everyone else kicks him down. Andrews soft yet harsh almost childlike performance makes you want to be by his side and show him everyone has something special about them. Keira Knightley as Ruth is that one antagonist we have all encountered in our lives, the one that takes what you want because she can and not because she should. Keira just lights up her villainous side in this movie. She is living for herself and no one to stop her. For this film she has broken away from past performances and set a new level for herself.
Warning, “SPOILER ALERT”, in my final words. So what would you do, life, living off of others or live naturally without the brashness of medical advances? It is this that the film delves into, the human factor. What makes us who we are? Who can we be, do, change, affect? Who are we to say who is human? As I mentioned above, this film mirrors some issues we as a society are dealing with now. Can we in our best judgment use medical advances to help us live longer? Stem cell research has been off and on the books for years with both positive and negative effect. Could we use clones as an alternative? But then we are creating lives, people whose sole purpose is to give of themselves away so that those who are “natural” born may live just a little longer. I could not do it. It is this precious thing we call life just that, a story. It’s our story. It has a beginning, I’m currently living my middle chapters and eventually there will be an end. I dread thinking of the end because, well that’s me. I enjoy making the choices I have made whether bad or good I made them, I followed through with them and I will account for them. No one should create another living soul and then tell them what they can and cannot do. But who am I, I’m just a movie reviewer with my own thoughts. But that’s what this story is about, morality. The best of the old story telling ways, make you leave the theater thinking.