Children of Men review
Children of Men


It is 2027 and the human race is dying. It always was of course, but before now, children were born, the birth rate exceeding the death rate. Sometime eighteen years ago, something went wrong with this system, and no new children have been born in all that time. Much of the world has turned to anarchy, with only Britain left standing as the self-proclaimed protectors of the world as they knew it.

As the film begins, refugees are evicted with extreme prejudice, avoiding fertility tests is illegal, the London bombings are recreated with frightening randomness, suicide pills are government issue, and the entire world mourns baby Diego, the (former) youngest person on Earth.

Living in what could be described as pre-apocalyptic London, Theo Faron, a former political activist turned bureaucrat seems unsurprisingly jaded. Using the death of baby Diego as an excuse to leave work early (narrowly avoiding a bomb is not deemed dramatic enough), Theo heads to his friend Jasper's home in the Sussex countryside. However, it's on his return to London, when he is kidnapped by anarchist/terrorist group (delete according to loyalty), the Fishes when the story really gets started.

Julian Taylor, the leader of the Fishes offers Theo five thousand pounds in exchange for travel permits for a young woman (importance unknown). Julian knows that Theo can get the papers, since his cousin is a member of the British Government. Julian knows a lot about Theo, since she is his ex-wife. They haven't seen each other in a while, but they still have at least one thing in common; they are still mourning their son, Dylan.

However, right now there are more important things to worry about; Theo manages to get the papers, on the condition that he escorts the girl in question. And when Julian dies and it seems that no one is trustworthy, Theo is left as the sole protector of Kee, the girl in question, who may be the only fertile woman in the world.

Somehow, they have to make sure that Kee's baby is born healthy, as well as escape from the totalitarian government and other groups that would use her baby for their own agendas.

The film was made in England, so a large variety of English accents are shown (including a rather evil Geordie), as well as Julian Taylor's (Julianne Moore) American voice. Theo Faron is played by Clive Owen, who manages to pull off the scruffy but trustworthy rogue rather well. Sir Michael Caine is adorable as Jasper, and Pam Ferris and Peter Mullan don't let anyone down on their respective roles. Relative newcomer, Claire-Hope Ashitey, although her voice lets her down occasionally, manages a respectable performance.

It can't be denied that director Alfonso Cuarón put a lot of effort into this film. Although he received the script in 2001, he went on to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before beginning production, using the experience to gain firsthand knowledge of the "social dynamics of the British psyche". He also used the 1967 film The Battle of Algiers as a model for social reconstruction in preparation for production, while reading works by Slavoj Žižek and similar others, in order to provide a social and philosophical framework. This does pay off, and futuristic London is very well presented. I'd have assumed it was a UK director if I hadn't known otherwise. The only flaw would be the lack of Indian or Pakistani people onscreen. I don't know if this is objectively true, but in the England I know, those are among the most common races, and there were relatively few on-screen compared to people from other countries, most of whom, I believe, it would be unusual to see on the streets I know.

Children of Men was, in many ways, a visually ambitious project. Much of the film was shot in long shot, with a handheld camera; essentially, this means that, rather than scenes being broken up into manageable pieces, actors had to perform long segments at a time, and pray nothing went wrong. Halfway through the film, the camera is spattered with blood halfway through a scene. It's said that this was left in because the shot took five hours to set up and no one wanted to do it over. Whatever reason it was left in, I found it shattered my suspension of disbelief. Rather than being absorbed in the story, it became obvious that I was watching a film. It was soon back on track, however. One section of the film, which is commendable, is the portrayal of pregnancy and childbirth, which is one of the most realistic I've ever seen. I'm not alone in this – I've seen message boards where people questioned whether Ashitey actually was pregnant or not. The childbirth scene, rather than being faded out or crowded like in many other films, is calm and completely realistic and believable, more so than any other film, ever.

The futuristic London isn't so futuristic and is fairly believable. To be fair, I wasn't concentrating on the background so much the first time I saw the film, and perhaps my opinion will change when it reaches DVD and I can watch it to my hearts content.

In summary, Children of Men is an interesting sci-fi thriller, with some interesting camera work, amazingly realistic childbirth, and an underlying social commentary on British morals. And lots of sexy accents.

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