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Friday, January 05, 2007

Children of Men

We’ve heard politicians tell us “the children are out future”so many times that the words have begun to lose all meaning. When you really stop and think about it, however, it’s a very true statement. Without a next generation, the human race would only have a few decades left on earth. This is the premise of Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film, Children of Men , a bleak, violent but ultimately beautiful and moving dystopian drama. Based on the novel by P.D. James, Children of Men tells of a future in which no one is able to procreate. The world is in chaos as people lose hope and wage war on each other. In the year 2027, the UK has closed its borders and is slowly rounding up all immigrants and refugees and putting them into camps. Constant, Orwellian advertisements all over London remind us “Only Britain soldiers on.” Naturally, it turns out that one of these persecuted refugees is the first person to get pregnant in eighteen years. Theo (played without a bit of pretense or sanctimony by Clive Owen) is a disenchanted government worker who is enlisted by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore) to help transport the young pregnant woman to a safe place called “The Human Project.”

Children of Men is part fantasy and part thriller, and all heart-wrenching drama. I walked in fearing that the film would be brimming with maudlin symbolism but was pleasantly surprised to find that I never felt manipulated or cynical while watching it. I felt disturbed, upset, angry and, eventually, hopeful that the human race will have some kind of a future, however bleak. The scenes of the refugee internment camps are chilling in their realism. One of the reasons Children of Men makes such an emotional impact is that it doesn’t look like “the future,” but rather the present world with a little more smoke and twisted metal thrown in for good measure.

Although the pacing of the film was just right, I almost wish the film had been longer; I loved the expositional material and longed for more of it. A particularly amusing scene features Danny Huston as Theo’s wealthy art collecting cousin who lives in what looks like some kind of converted industrial high-rise, drinking Pinot and admiring Picasso’s Guernica and Michelangelo’s David (sans a leg). His character uses the insulation of wealth to protect him from the impending extinction of the human race. Theo’s friend Jasper (Michael Caine) adopts a different strategy, living out his life in the woods, surrounded by psychedelic rock and homegrown ganja. For the rest of the country, suicide kits (“Quietus: you decide when”) are routinely purchased and used at home. How would you adjust to the end of the world?

The amount of money I would pay to see this movie: $7


Blogger kjf said...

I, too, would have loved more info detailing the collapse of civilization (i.e. what could Seattle possibly have possessed that would warrant a 1000-day siege?), but the film was quite clever at clueing the audience in without bonking it over the head with a Star Wars-style on-screen preface. After all... show, don't tell.

Great film, but a couple of nitpicky points:

A) I'm still not sure why Future England would have refugee camps in the first place. If folks in charge were that paranoid about border control, why not summarily dispose of the intruders entirely and eliminate the risk of mass insurrection?

B) The last 10-15 minutes did smack suspiciously of an ol' Deus Ex Machina, the way events and characters seemed to conveniently line up at the end. Although we never did find out who was the skipper of that rescue boat...

6:53 PM  

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