Over the weekend, PJ insisted that I watch one of his favorite movies from last year, Never Let Me Go, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. The movie tells an alternate history narrative: a cure was discovered for all major illnesses, extending life expectancies to 100 years or more. The “cure” is creating human clones whose organs are harvested and used for “real” humans. Here’s the trailer:

Just about everyone I know loves this movie, and I skimmed the novel earlier this year just to see what they were all raving about. I have to say up front that this isn’t the kind of movie I generally like. I don’t films in which we’re made to sympathize with a character only to watch him or her inevitably move toward tragedy. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Probably for that reason, Never Let Me Go is never going to be one of my favorite movies, but I did think that it was beautifully made in every way. The acting is excellent — the three leads are all great. I also enjoyed the cinematography, production design, and direction. And the story is well told.

I can also now see what all of gays are excited by Andrew Garfield. He’s completely adorable in this movie, and he fits the part perfectly. Peter Parker is a natural extension of the likable innocence that works so well here.

PJ says that he loves it because of its metaphor for life, its call for us to enjoy what time we have without waiting for some future that’s never going to come. I can appreciate that moral, but, which I like that moral, I’m not sure the metaphor really works.

For me, the main point of the movie is its ethical question: what would we be willing to do for longer, healthier life? Would we be willing to harvest organs from other humans in this way? It raises interesting questions about how far we would go to NOT define someone as human — perhaps even about how far we already go to redefine people. The Tea Party activists at last night’s debate celebrating the idea that we might let someone die just because he couldn’t afford insurance is a startlingly close step to actively mining someone’s organs. It makes me wonder if that’s how “conservatives” allow themselves to hold some of their positions — just don’t think of gays, blacks, Hispanics, or the poor as human beings. Then you can do whatever you want to them with a clear conscience.

Never Let Me Go is a thought-provoking movie, but one that I felt never quite gets past its status as morality tale.