The fictional text that I have chosen to analyse is Never Let Me Go (2010). Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopian future where little positive world-building has taken place. The film revolves around a woman, Kathy, who was brought up in a school of ‘donors’. As the film progresses, we find out that these children are kept in this facility to be closely monitored and looked after for the purpose of eventually becoming organ donors.
These children are led to believe that their ‘originals’ (a person who looks like them) live in the outside world. Their goals in life are to find their ‘originals’ and to commence their ‘donations’ (organ donations). Never Let Me Go successfully displays a future scenario so unbelievable and horrific to its viewers by emphasising that the characters within the film do not realise that they are actually living in a dystopian future.
The film revolves around the main character, Kathy, who is seen spending her childhood at what seems to be a common boarding school called the Hailsham House. At this boarding school, the children are all raised to become organ donors and in turn, keeping these children healthy is paramount. The students are constantly reminded that they are ‘special’ but are oblivious to the underlying reasons as to why because they are obviously brainwashed, with one Guardian (teacher) addressing them with “I’ll talk to you in a way that you will understand”. Throughout the film, the Guardians subtly urge the students to devote themselves to this extremely healthy lifestyle where a Guardian tells a student to eat their vegetables and in another scene where strict authority is enforced when a cigarette is found on the grounds.
When Kathy and her small group of friends are moved out of Hailsham House and into the real world, they realise that they have little to no experience and confidence with the outside world even though they underwent basic role playing exercises in school, where they would act out scenarios that they could encounter in the world. This was an emphasis on their insidious upbringing. As their origins are unknown, they believe they have come from and are modelled based on people who are typically from “the gutter”.
Further in their life, they come to the conclusion that the art and poetry that they produced as a child was a way to “look into their souls” in order to validate future relationships, but this is not the case. The Guardians come forward and confess that the purpose of those creative outlets were to “see if they had any soul at all”, reaffirming the dystopian future for these characters.
Technological devices are scarce in the film although, there is one significant device within the film that emphasises the shocking use of technology in this dystopian scenario. All past and present Hailsham students wear a futuristic band on their wrist which they scan before and after they leave their home. Throughout the film, this action seems like second nature to them because it’s something that they have shockingly participated in for their whole lives.
At The Cottages, televisions are available to them. For a few of the characters, television programs are where they learn actions from, such as the way they touch their partners. Technology for personal use lessens in emphasis as the years go by, but medical instruments and facilities are in abundance, as this aspect of the scenario is portrayed as an imperative stage in ones life.
The National Donor Program in the film plays a major role in the dystopian world. People were aware of its ethics and many had heard rumours and stories. In saying this, I think that a lot of money would have been spent on running this Program because it required various medical practices, as well as financing the Carer jobs that many took. Additionally, funds would have been needed to raise the Donor children in the Hailsham House.
The film is spread across the 1970s-1990s in England. Commonly in dystopian films, the outdoors would have obvious signs of ruins and abandonment but it is the contrary in Never Let Me Go. The outdoors are more often than not shown with endearing weather, whereas the scenes shot indoors are portrayed with dark or dull lighting to depict an indirect jail concept.
To reiterate the extent of Kathy’s inexperience with the outside world, she moves in to a place called ‘The Cottages’ and speaks so aspirationally about living with people “from other homes (she has) never heard of”. This shows the intensity of the isolation from other communities and environments while at the Hailsham House.
There is an obvious malicious system that is in place that causes controversy because if its ethical standpoint. On one hand, children are raised from a young age for the sole purpose to become an organ donor; on the other hand, these donations are saving lives.
This could easily become a possible aspect of the distant future as the characters never reject the lifestyle that they are living and they go forward as if it is the normal thing to do. The film addresses the sensitive topic of Euthanasia where a Doctor reveals that “when they want to complete (die), they usually do”. This highlights that one of the only choices that these Hailsham donors are given is when they decide they are too weak to survive.
– Alissa Recil
Toro. G, March 19 2014, 15 Underseen and overlooked dystopian features in film, IndieWire, Date accessed 13 October 2016,