Please note the following blog contains spoilers for the 2010 film Never Let Me Go.
Like many great films, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go generated many conflicting opinions and raised many questions. Legitimate cinematic complaints aside, one of the main complaints about the film was that many could not understand why the characters did not challenge their fate. An answer to this question may have come in the form of the horrible tragedy that recently struck Japan, and the courage of those who are fighting to keep it from taking more lives.
To quickly recap the film, Never let Me Go follows a group of clones who are destined to live short lives as they prepare to have their organs harvested on reaching young adulthood. While the film may be set in an alternate reality Britain, its thematic setting seems more in line with Japan. This connection is made obvious by the fact the film is based on the Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s book of the same name.
As the culture of Japan is entirely foreign to Westerners, it is understandable why the characters’ actions may be frustrating, puzzling and disquieting to some. Without any real world connection, the viewer is left confused. Yet, with the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11th, 2011, we have just observed a real world event that might shed light on the actions of Never Let Me Go‘s sullen heroes. Japanese culture has, and still is, very heavily based upon honour and a moral duty to do what is needed, something which led to the infamous kamikaze suicide pilots in World War 2.
Many have been working around the clock to contain the damage caused by the natural disaster. Particularly poignant and telling, are the stories of the workers of the badly-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. As more details emerge about just how damaged the reactor was and still is, we are only now realizing how dangerous a job these brave workers are performing, and just how important their objectives are. Some are calling this a suicide mission, as radiation surrounds the lives of these men as a constant, but invisible threat. While three workers have died thus far, the real damage will be seen later in their lives, as the radiation takes its toll on their bodies.
These men are heroes, yet they are not being heralded as such, nor do they consider themselves heroes. They are doing what must be done, and in Japan, to label them heroes would be adding pressure to the already herculean task of preventing even more destruction.
Like those who are currently exposing themselves to dangerous levels of radiation in hopes that the plant will become stable once more, the characters in Never Let Me Go know that this is their job, and it must be done. They never truly contemplate trying to prolong their lives in a way that would make a significant difference. They do not fight with what will come of them, they sit down and accept it. It was a frustrating element to some, but a beautiful, realistic touch that makes the film the masterpiece it is.
These people, clones to be exact, have one objective in life and that is to “complete”. To give up their lives so others can live, and that is exactly what they do. There are no if, ands or buts, it is simply the way they were raised. The clones are heroes, they are giving their lives up so others can live, and that is what many of the Japanese workers are, or will be doing.