Never Let Me Go
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Young people ponder sex, love, life in downer sci-fi drama.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The essential idea behind the movie is that life, any life, is valuable. The characters learn empathy and kindness toward each other and only experience trouble when true love gets in the way of their destinies. Eventually the characters learn that, even though they may only have a short time on earth, their experiences are just as important as those with much longer lives.
Positive Role Models
The main character, Kathy, is a sad creature; she seems lonely and lost and always somewhat aware of everything she's missed in life. She's not very active and really hasn't much choice in anything. Eventually she experiences a brief moment of real love and learns to appreciate it; she understands that even a brief moment, fully lived, is worth a lifetime.
Violence & Scariness
There's some anger and raging, and a boy accidentally slaps a girl. Also a couple of somewhat gory hospital scenes. And there's a general sense of unease around the lives of these young people, who are trapped within the rules of a sinister organization.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
At all of the three different ages they're shown -- preteens, teens, and twentysomethings -- these characters think and talk a great deal about sex. The preteens fall in love, hold hands, kiss, wonder about sex, and pine for each other. As teens, they actually do have sex (there's moaning and one partial naked breast), and they ponder the meaning of an adult relationship. A teen girl also looks through a nudie magazine that has several photos of naked female breasts.
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"Oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Teens order Cokes in a diner.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some cigarettes are found on the school grounds, and there's speculation that some of the preteens may have smoked them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this romantic drama with sci-fi elements (which is based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro) is probably too offbeat to appeal to most teens, and its premise -- (possible spoiler alert) that the young people it follows have been specially bred to provide "spare parts" for "real" people -- is quite unsettling. As the main characters grow from preteens to teens to twentysomethings, they talk and think a great deal about love and sex (there's some partial female nudity) before finally experiencing these things first hand ... and then things get even more complicated. There's very little language or violence, but the overall tone is sinister and depressing.
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Where to Watch
Based on 2 parent reviews
Sad and beautiful film about life, love, and death - thought provoking!
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What's the Story?
Kathy (Carey Mulligan) appears to work in some capacity in a hospital. In flashback, viewers learn about her past, growing up at a rather peculiar school. She falls in love with Tommy but loses him to her friend, Ruth. Before long, the children learn their real purpose (possible spoiler alert): They have been specially created for "spare parts" to be donated to "real," sick people. Years later, Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) are still together. Rumors begin to circulate that there may be special treatment for couples who are truly in love, but Kathy volunteers as a "carer," which will take her on a different path from her friends. Will these young people discover the secret behind their lives, and can true love conquer all?
Is It Any Good?
Based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and directed by celebrated former music video maker Mark Romanek, this film is meticulously made and never less than interesting. It develops and sustains a specific, eerily effective mood that's hard to describe; it's somewhat dystopian but also somewhat like an alternate reality.
The three stars are captivating and charismatic, but that may not be enough to provide a real emotional connection in the movie's chilly, thoroughly depressing atmosphere. The overall science fiction idea hangs over the entire film like a dark cloud; it has no beginning or ending or center, and it's unchanging. Although the movie's ultimate point is to appreciate what little we're actually given (and also to value the real meaning of being human), it leaves little room for hope.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the movie depicts sex. The characters are very curious about sex. Do they learn about it in healthy ways?
Do you think the movie's overall message is positive or negative? Why?
- In theaters: September 15, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2011
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley
- Director: Mark Romanek
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality and nudity
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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