Never Let Me Go is set in a world like ours where human lifespan has exceeded 100 years in 1952, and where human cloning is a reality. However, you still can’t replace organs from in vitro yet. You still need organs from donors. So, how do you get the donors? From cloning. The “donors” will be raised in a boarding school until they are 18 years old and ready to become donors. They will undergo 3-4 donations before they “complete”, i.e., they die. Kidneys, liver, those kinds of stuff (you will see the liver of Keira Knightly!). In the final scene of the movie, Kathy (Carey Mulligan, the main character) has lost her best friends, Tommy (Andrew Garfield a.k.a. Eduardo Saverin of The Social Network and Peter Parker of 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man) and Ruth (Knightly) as both of them have “completed.” She will soon donate her first organ and she reflects on whether the donors’ lives are really different from the others, as eventually “we all complete.”
It is a brilliantly depressing, wonderfully nihilistic, profoundly meaningless movie (especially as the genre of the film is drama). All sorts of existential questions popped up in your mind. Are the donors less free than us? What differs fate and destiny? Indeed, isn’t it better to know what you will exactly do in your life? Does life have any teleological meaning? What do you mean by having a “complete” or meaningful life? And, if you really think about it, is not war a paradigmatic sacrifice of human beings, from which we could continue our “civilization”? That the casualties in war are “donors” for our life?
(Ko Tjeli immediately pointed out to me that it is exactly what I do with mice. The mice are born to be sacrificed. Although in practice we do talk about how we can reduce the number of mice needed, there is no way stopping the other direction pointed out by the film, i.e., sacrificing humans for other humans’ sake.)