Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón (2006)
jusco’s Rating: ★★★★★
This is a powerful film. It is not a film to be watched lightly; in fact, you can consider it as disturbing as George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The commonality between the three works? All portray a futuristic dystopian society that though may initially seem unrealistic, eventually causes you to think twice: “Hey, this isn’t all that far-fetched. In fact, this is really scary.”
Where to begin? Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (also known for directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y tu mamá también), is set in 2027’s London. The premise: global human infertility. A baby has not been born in 18 years, implying the upcoming extinction of the human race. And what do people usually do in times of distress or trouble? Create even more problems for themselves, thus leading to collapses and breakdowns, destruction and terrorism. In addition, UK is the only nation still maintaining an actual functioning government, attracting people from around the world. And conveniently, UK’s slogan is this: “Illegal immigration is a crime.” And the list goes on.
In the midst of this rather bleak environment (bombs exploding, people dying), there is a disillusioned man by the name of Theo, played by Clive Owen, who is tasked to help protect and safely escort an African refugee named Kee out of the UK before she is arrested as an illegal immigrant. Just what is so important about Kee? Well, nothing much, except for the fact that she’s pregnant and possibly holding the key to salvation of the entire homo sapien race.
This is an amazing film on so many levels. I’ll briefly touch on the points. First, the acting. Clive Owen gives a superb performance as Theo, who attempts to act tough and apathetic, but who really has a caring heart and a strong sense of responsibility, duty. And of course, Michael Caine never fails to impress; in this, he provides the much-needed humour by acting as Theo’s rather eccentric friend, Jasper. His hobby? Smoking weed, naturally. The rest of the cast is just as solid.
Second, the cinematography is to be highly commended. The camera work is quite possibly one of the best I’ve seen in any film. It contains several single-shot sequences that are just mind-blowing (see Wikipedia for more information). You can easily get sucked into the scene, as if you were really there on the grounds, especially during the intense battle scenes. The advantage of such continuous and fluid shots is the ability to engross the audience completely, never giving them time to take a breather.
Third, the soundtrack works ever so efficiently. It was unique enough for me to notice but not so overpowering as to distract you from the film itself. It creates an original and innovative feel by combining multiple genres of music, drawing the right emotion out at the right time.
But ultimately, Children of Men makes you think, and it makes you think hard. In the beginning, I was hesitant. Mass infertility? It all sounded a bit implausible. Yet, the genius of it is how it handles effectively other matters to provide the necessary realism to construct the futuristic and broken London. It is not a film that thrives on the plot of Theo protecting Kee and her baby, but rather on the intensive reflections on life itself.
This is essentially a study and analysis of human behaviour, of human emotions and of the effect of disheartened desperation. It leads to the cruelty that unfortunately resides in many of us. It leads to the apathy, the despondent feeling of giving up because life is just not working out. It leads to the death of faith. Jasper points out (in reference to Theo’s deceased son): “And then, by chance, he was gone. You see, Theo’s faith lost out to chance. So, why bother if life’s going to make its own choices?”
But the beauty of this film is the faint hope that weaves itself in and out. Let me tell you, it is a roller coaster ride. Things happen so shockingly fast, all you can do is just sit and stare in disbelief. It’s tough to watch at times. But this is also a film of self-awareness, of maturity, of growth. Theo goes through that transformation and journey, of discovering the need to grasp tightly to that hope, despite the widespread misery (and he certainly goes through some unimaginable hardships). It’s what keeps him going, it’s what keeps the audience watching.
It’s interesting then, when comparisons to Christianity are made. And these are not worthless comparisons. There are many things to be learnt from this film, and even more to meditate on. Issues of politics, racism and human relations are introduced, and of course that faith, that possibility. If only we can implement this hope in our very lives!