Movie review: Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron

Genre: dystopian horror
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Theo Faron – Clive Owen
Julian Taylor  – Julianne Moore
Kee  – Clare-Hope Ashitey 

Miriam – Pam Ferris
Jasper Palmer – Michael Caine


Year 2027. For unknown reasons human women have been infertile for almost two decades and the youngest citizen of Earth, a 18-year-old boy, has just been murdered. That situation has left society on the brink of total collapse. The UK soldiers on although hordes of dirty illegal immigrants seek sanctuary there; that’s why the last functioning government imposes opressive immigration laws and sends soldiers on the streets.

Theo Faron, a civil servant one day is abducted by a terrorist group called the Fishes. He is  asked by their leader,  his ex-wife Julian, a human rights activist, to help a West African refugee called Kee escape the overwhelming chaos. Soon enough he finds out that Kee is pregnant – perhaps the only pregnant woman on Earth. Will they manage to saver her and her baby? Will it change the desperate situation of the humankind?

My impressions:

I don’t know why but I didn’t want to watch this movie for years. Officially everything was fine : plenty of people said it was an awesome story directed by a well-known, sensible guy and it did win a lot of awards; the premise sounded nice enough (I like dystopias), the cast was interesting…and yet I couldn’t force myself to borrow it somehow or muster enough interest to watch it. Untill this year. My personal impressions after seeing it are mixed.

The plot was really good, realistic and gripping. I found out that the movie is based in broad outline on the 1992 dystopian novel by P. D. James about a world suffering from global infertility — and written with a nod to Orwell. It definitely made itself felt.

The action was swift and ferocious, the setting – an urban hell that looked chillingly similar to the Iraqi or Palestinian combat areas of newspaper reportage, television news and mostly uncensored documentaries. There were several heart-gripping set pieces, including a hugely unsettling ambush scene shot almost entirely from inside a car crammed with passengers. There’s so much despair and anger and grief packed into this film that after a while I stopped understanding how Kee could be saved at all and, what’s maybe more important, what for. One human woman, no matter how fertile, and one baby cannot save the whole humanity, right? Even if they are supported by a powerful shadowy organization and represent something akin to a new Messiah and his mom.

There are great scenes and clever touches, don’t get me wrong – like the ancient, manky sweatshirt Theo wears -advertising the London Olympics of 2012. To many people, it is a symbol of London’s last-ever demonstration of untroubled national rejoicing, before that mood was cruelly shattered by the 7/7 bombings. Now London 2012 is Theo’s veteran-badge of despair, and a memento of his lost career in political dissent and the drab existence he leads.

It seemed to me that Cuarón wanted to make a movie that condenses many of our fears and anxieties of today: brutal, over-controlling governments, the public’s willingness to cede hard-won freedoms for just semblance of law and order, our own relationship as a species to our environment — and deploys them in a story that’s close enough to reality to feel like a kick in the gut and fictional enough to make us (hopefully) take a step back and say, ‘hey, are we doing the right thing?’

Did he succeed? Not really, at least not in my case. What this movie lacks, in my very humble opinion, is a clearer purpose. I have to admit a mission to ferry a young girl who may represent a new beginning for humanity (how? why? it is never explored either) to a mysterious organization called the Human Project seemed to me as senseless as all those endless, brutal scenes of fighting and persecution of the immigrants. If you asked me they would fail, all of them – for more than one reason.

Final verdict:

This is an explosively violent future-nightmare thriller, which might leave you drained and miserable. The thinking person’s action movie? Yes, but strangely devoid of any purpose and therefore depressing, not offering any real, tangible hope.

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8 Responses to Movie review: Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron

  1. rameau says:

    I watched this years ago, I think we still have the DVD at home somewhere, but it didn't really leave an impression.

  2. It left me strangely empty of thoughts as well. Go figure. It was supposed to be so good.

  3. Blodeuedd says:

    I can't remember if I liked the book more

  4. I agree, the premise sounds great but the execution was dismal. I actually INTENSELY dislike Cuaron's films. I'll never forgive him for what he did to Prisoner of Azkaban.

  5. LOL some people say Prisoner was the best HP movie but I can see your point.

  6. If you can't remember you didn't. ;p

  7. rameau says:

    In theory this a brilliant and thought-provoking film that shows just how far people are willing to go to prove to themselves at least that humanity is still capable of good, that it's worth saving. In reality, however, not so much.

  8. Yeah, reality sucks.

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