Contributed By Yong Yung Shin
It’s not often that an actress of Keira Knightley’s caliber has to jostle for screen presence with another, but in this introspective arthouse drama adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel of the same name, she shares kudos with Carey Mulligan, who makes up for her comparatively plain Jane looks with a wonderfully measured performance as the protagonist and narrator Kathy H.
The movie opens with captions stating that medical breakthroughs in 1952 has extended the human lifespan beyond 100 years. A 28-year-old Kathy H. (Mulligan) stands on the other side of a glass panel, looking into an operating theatre where her childhood friend, Tommy (The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield), lies on the table. They are clones in a dystopian world, born and bred for one purpose—their organs. The rest of the movie is a flashback to their seemingly idyllic childhood at a convent-like boarding school, where together with another classmate, Ruth (Knightley), they live out lives marked by the same traits present in their human creators—first love, jealousy and yearning.
As the trio hurtle towards their inevitable fate come adulthood, questions about the substance of the human soul as well as the meaning of life and love comes to the fore. The passivity of the characters in response to their horrendous fate beggars a question mark in the minds of viewers though, and the film’s pace slows to a plod at times.
But it is more than decently redeemed by a heart-wrenching final act—not in terms of an unexpected conclusion or twist in the story, but in the way every aspect of the production comes together; the gray undertones in the aesthetics of the film, the sweeping film score and the sparsely landscaped locations successfully orchestrate an engulfing sense of sadness borne out of a disposable existence—in other words, it’s a thoroughly depressing watch.
Entertainment? Far from it. Fodder for intelligent discourse on lofty topics about morality and existentialism? Definitely.