WARNING: This article contains Spoilers for ‘Children of Men.’
Children of Men – at least, on the surface – is a movie about hope, and how it can be found in even the harshest of times.
Directed and written by Alfonso Cuarón, and based upon the 1992 Science-Fiction novel by the name of ‘The Children of Men’ by author P.D James, Children of Men wastes no time in introducing us to the bleak, hopeless, and poverty-ridden world of the near future of 2027 – where infertility and wars run rampant across the globe. The film’s title card appears at exactly two points in the entire film, serving to bookend the narrative. The first is accompanied by the sound of a high pitched ringing in the main character’s ear, as a result of an explosion, and a scream. The second, which closes the film, is displayed over the sound of children laughing in the background. A much more hopeful scene, and the final confirmation that Theo’s (Clive Owen) sacrifice was a success.
The BAFTA Award winning production design by Geoffrey Kirkland and Jim Clay lends the film an immaculate attention to detail, showcasing a truly ‘lived-in’ world. For the majority of the film’s 114 minute runtime, the camera stays focussed solely on the protagonist, Theo Faron, and as a result, allows the audience to experience the majority of the narrative’s shocks and surprises at the exact moment in which Theo experiences them. There is little exposition in Children of Men, and of which there is, is carefully sprinkled throughout – which helps to leave much of the film’s world to the audience’s imagination.
While most films within the Science Fiction genre concentrate solely on cutting-edge, next-generation technology, Children of Men presents to us a worryingly believable future, in which humanity, over-population and natural causes have helped to doom the Earth. The antagonist of Children of Men is not any one particular character, (although Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Luke comes close) but is rather the ruling faction in power, who work to undermine the weak and poor. The fenced-in misery of Bexhill, England in this film – also the location for the film’s famous seven-minute-long one take scene – makes for a grim allegory for the numerous Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
Those looking for their action-thriller kick in Children of Men will be satisfied, and for those looking for a film packed with deeper allegories and subtext, can too find that in abundance. The actors do a wonderful job with the scenes in which they are in, and all of their characters are properly fleshed out. Michael Caine (Jasper Palmer) and Julianne Moore (Julian) are also exceptional in the small roles that they play. Visual references to famous pieces of real-life art are also woven throughout for anyone with a keen eye, and finally – the excellent score – composed by British composer John Tavener, who has only scored three films in his musical career – serves to compliment the film exceptionally well.
There is only one specific detail in the film that I had wished that the Director had excluded. Personally, I feel as if the Director shouldn’t have specified the exact year in which the film takes place, instead leaving the time-period ambiguous, allowing the audience to ponder on exactly how close this dystopian future is to our own, potentially heightening the unease felt throughout.
Children of Men is an incredible film – bearing a unique take on the dystopian science fiction genre, a rarely matched attention to detail, and an eerie message, that lingers long after the final credits roll. A modern classic? We think so.