Never Let Me Go is a most unusual kind of hybrid: it's a science fiction Merchant-Ivory movie. With its sepia color palette, its boarding school milieu, and its bevy of British accents, the film clearly announces itself as a 20th century period piece. Why, then, are these students running their wrists against biometric readers on their dormitory walls? The less you know why, the better you'll enjoy Never Let Me Go, which reveals its secrets early on, but not so early that they belong in a plot synopsis. What a critic can safely say is that these children are on a predetermined path toward a tragic destiny. It's a minor shortcoming of this otherwise exquisite film that they don't try very hard to avoid it. Never Let Me Go is a gorgeous, lyrical film, whose primary mode is passivity. In fact, the three central characters -- sensitively portrayed by Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield -- view themselves as so powerless against the process that controls them, they let it sweep them away toward oblivion. Clearly, screenwriter Alex Garland (adapting Kazuo Ishiguro's book) and director Mark Romanek have no interest in an escape-and-chase movie, which a Hollywood treatment of the material would have demanded. The purpose of Never Let Me Go is far more meditative, using the mortality of these young lives as a symbol of the brevity and fragility of all human lives. The characters' looming fate intensifies the poignancy of their sacrifices, their missed connections, each of which carries a specific dramatic weight with a quantifiable impact on their remaining time. The same little tragedies exist in our daily lives, only we don't feel their same weight, blessed as we are with the illusion that we'll live forever -- live to get it right the next time around.