After a breakthrough in medical science in 1952, things have progressed well and by the 1970’s human life expectancy has reached more than 100 years. To support this longevity in society, Halisham is one of several seemingly “idyllic” and proper English boarding schools that is participating in a National Organ Donor Program to raise and educate an entire community of “very special” children. We meet students Cathy (played by Carey Mulligan), Ruth (by Keira Knightley) and Tommy (by Andrew Garfield) who have lived at the school in a sheltered, highly disciplined and closely controlled life since their birth. When a new teacher Miss Lucy (by Sally Hawkins) arrives at school, she reveals to the children that theirs is a life with a purpose – they have been created and raised as donor humans to provide body parts for the people who need them in the “outside world”. At first the children are too young to understand the entire scenario and live in a world of stories and fantasy about the school – perpetuated by the staff and the particularly cold-hearted Headmistress (by Charlotte Rampling) – and they have no way to validate what’s true and what isn’t. The children learn that as young adults, each will begin the donation process until their body is no longer able to function with its missing parts and then the donor will achieve “completion”.
This movie is an adaptation of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and it introduces a fascinating but horrific concept. We watch these three people develop into their young adulthood, trying to understand their feelings for each other and their eventual experiences of donation. Their lives are stark and due to their isolation since birth their relationships are immature and awkward. However, its interesting to watch this sci-fi scenario play out.