Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby; based on the novel by P. D. James
Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Danny Huston, Michael Caine, and Peter Mullan
Length: 1 hour and 49 minutes
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.”
Children of Men takes place in in 2027 England where women have been infertile for 18 years. Theo (Clive Owen), a former activist, is abducted by the Fishes, a radical, pro-immigration group with a violent past. His ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore), is now a leader in the organization and recruits Theo to help Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a young refugee, get to the safety of an organization called The Human Project because she is pregnant. The group is ambushed while traveling and, when Theo learns that the Fishes intend to kill him and take the baby for their own political purposes, he decides to continue the journey with Kee.
Propaganda is everywhere in the world of Children of Men. England has become hyper-nationalist and London is filled with refugees and soldiers. There is constant advertisement of the fact that the rest of the world is in chaos and that “Only Britain soldiers on”; posters are littered throughout the background that say “Suspicious? Report it.” There is a stark disparity between the refugees and the rich; Theo walks among caged people on his way to work, but almost enters another world when visiting his cousin’s Ark of the Arts. The affluent maintain their splendor while the world crumbles around them; when Theo presses his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston), on how he keeps going on despite the fact that there won’t be anyone left to see the art in a hundred years, Nigel smiles and says, “Honestly Theo, I don’t think about it.”
Nostalgia permeates the scenery and not just in the high class part of London; photographs are used throughout the film and the camera often lingers on them. At the house of Theo’s friend, Jasper (Michael Caine), there is a collection of newspaper clippings and pictures that help explain what happened to his wife and why she is silent. When Theo changes clothes at a safe-house, he sees pictures of children playing, and later photographs of the old couple who take him and Kee in are featured in order to carry the motif. Images that refer to what has been left behind by children are also strewn throughout the film. In the room Theo stays in at the safe-house, there are cartoon characters painted on the walls which suggests that it used to belong to a child. He also meets with a border guard (Peter Mullan) at an abandoned school that is covered in the decaying drawings of school children.
These small details are brought into higher clarity because camera lingers and looks around of its own volition. It doesn’t always focus on the characters and will sometimes move the frame to take a closer look at something disturbing or thought-provoking. Cuarón likes to use long-takes – the most impressive are in the car when the group is being ambushed, when Theo is in a coffee shop and leaves before a bomb explodes, and the final sprint through a firefight in an internment camp.
Children of Men flew under a lot of people’s radar when it was released in 2006, and as such is the definition of a hidden gem. The camerawork, acting, story, and themes are all absolutely stellar in their execution and the film that they work together to create is one of the finest I have ever seen. I stumbled upon it about a year after its release when having a movie night at a friend’s house, and it has become one of my favorite films since. There is so much imagery and thematic eye-candy that creates a visual spectacle despite the bleakness of the setting and premise. Like many post-apocalyptic films, Children of Men ends with a hesitant optimism, which is believable due to the preceding events and actions of the characters in the movie. This is not a light-hearted film, nor is it a fast-paced action movie; though there is heart, it can sometimes lie heavy, and while there is action, it is built up to by straining tension. I cannot recommend this film enough because it executes in all the right ways for me as a viewer; I hope it does for you as well.
Verdict: 5 tense long-takes out of 5
Recommended for: Adults, fans of dystopian film, film majors, cinematography lovers, those who enjoy well-built tension, and you!
Not recommended for: The easily bored, those who suffer from motion sickness, the annoyingly optimistic, the destructively pessimistic, or people who like cookie-cutter Hollywood movies.