My friend suggested we go see ‘Never Let Me Go’ last weekend.
We had both loved the book, grim and unsettling, but brilliant for its writing and its sinister prescription for solving organ failure.
I should have known. I should have realised that Hollywood would take the detached narrative of the book, condense it into a chorus line of sadness and present it in feature film length, until it extracted tears.
At least 15 people walked out during the viewing I went to in Cineworld the other night. They were mostly couples, who mistakenly thought this would be some kind of heart-warming love story that would aid their efforts at pretending they were happy on Valentine’s Day.
It’s no such thing. It brings us back to the time when transplantation made its appearance on the medical stage. A breakthrough, no less. The response was to spawn a new population of humans, created and raised for the sole purpose of providing organs to those who are sick. It was accepted practice in this make-believe world, enshrined in government policy, without the conscience of a needy society suffering even a sleepless night over it.
When these innocent children have grown up and donated all they can, they don’t die. In their sad language where life is not a series of experiences, but a process, they “complete”.
The man behind the story, Kazuo Ishiguro, was born in Japan, a country where organ donation was outlawed entirely up until the last decade or so. Living in such a place provided the debate and the twisted fodder for such gross imaginings.
So many scenes moved my cold heart. The realisation of Kathy at the end that the lives of donors are not so different to the lives of those whom they save; that they all go through something they don’t really understand, and they all die in the end.
The dark moment where Tommy, realising there is no hope for him, stands on a lonely road and screams at the world.
Seeing Keira Knightey, her hands and arms bruised, much like my own after a stay in hospital or increasingly after routine blood tests have punctured my tired veins at various points, needles being moved around under the skin to try and coax some blood out.
It is on my mind more and more that I am going to be sick forever. Even with transplant, I will be tested constantly, on medication always, worried and worried and worried at every bug, every high temperature, every drop or gain in weight.
It exhausts me to think of the road ahead, like considering a long haul journey with stopovers in unpleasant places.
On the upside, this was a role Knightley was born to play. It suited her waif-like figure to fade away and flatline on screen.
I was not the better for having seen it. I cried in there, cried in the bathroom afterwards, and sat in a daze on the bus home.
The only film to have drawn such emotion from me was E.T. which I saw on the telly when I was 8 years old. I still don't understand why he had to go home.