On Saturday night I saw the movie, Never Let Me Go. Adapted from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel of the same name, the film opens in an alternative version of the 1970s and then jumps ahead to the 1990s. In this revised recent past great advances have been made in medical science, and people live to be well over one hundred. The initial setting is an idyllic but mysterious boarding school in the English countryside, and in a shocking and moving scene, it’s revealed to some of the children that they exist simply to be living donors of vital organs and other body parts. They will begin their mission when they are young adults, donating three times or more–if they survive the surgeries, before they succumb to premature death. The children have been cloned, “modeled” the movie calls it. They have no parents and will never know life outside of the institutions that house them.
Children exploited for the purposes of adults who need something they don’t have, I thought. Children who don’t have a say in their own fate. Children wondering about the person they were “modeled on.”
In one particularly moving scene the 20-something protagonist pages through a stack of skin magazines looking for the woman she is modeled on after she’s accompanied a friend on a mission into town to view a woman working in an office who might be her friend’s model. Don’t you know they don’t model us on people like that? the friend cries. If we want to find the person we are modeled on, we have to look in the gutter. Winos, prostitutes, addicts–the dregs of society. Those are the people who are used for models.
An adoptee’s worst fears, I thought.
The movie does not disclose what happens to the modelers–whether they are destroyed in the cloning process or not. They are societies’ throwaways.
Like birthmothers, I thought.
There’s a serpentine bureaucracy threaded with myths and lies that yields no viable information.
Like adoption and closed records, I thought.
The movie was excellent and thought-provoking in many ways.
Of course, I brought my own experience to it and saw it from a point of view that the author and the filmmaker most likely did not intend. But I highly recommend it.