CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer(s): Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Ten years ago, Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón made a film, based on P.D. James’ novel of the same name, depicting a dystopian London where the human race is dying out – women are infertile and it has been 18 years since the last birth. However, this is not the only problem that this terrifying world is facing – no, that comes in the form of immigration policies that are like something out of Nigel Farage’s wildest dreams, where borders are closed and those who are not British-born are sent to camps and locked in cages ready for deportation, bringing forth many terrorist groups in defence. In a film where all this is occurring, it’s difficult today not to find yourself troubled by just how similar these events seem. And though there are much more elaborate and harrowing than what is happening around the world right now, it nonetheless serves as a grim reminder of where we might well be heading.
Taking the reigns as Theo (Clive Owen, at what was quite likely the height of his career) is your everyday, depressive Englishman and obvious protagonist, as he is the only one who doesn’t seem to care about anything that’s happening and so he will obviously be the one called upon to save the world in classic dystopian fashion. We find him at the beginning of the film buying coffee as all those around him are taking in the news that ‘Youngest Person in the World’ 18-year-old “Baby Diego” has been killed by a crazed fan, and while others weep, Theo sees this as the best opportunity to get out of work a bit earlier and go and visit Michael Caine who plays his weed-growing hippie father Jasper (clawing his way back from the depths of Bewitched that was released only a year earlier to a resounding groan from the media). However, when Theo is approached by ex-girlfriend and activist or perhaps even terrorist Julian (Julianne Moore), he finds himself drawn into a very dangerous situation.
Julian introduces him to Kee who, as her almost painfully symbolic name suggests, is the key to solving everything. She is an immigrant and the first pregnant woman for 18 years – and it is Theo’s job to transport her to safety through the hazardous and terrifying streets of London. Mired by the corruption and danger that seems to be around every corner, Theo and heavily pregnant Kee are constantly trying to work out who they can trust in what may be the most realistic depiction of a dystopian world to ever come out of cinema. As grand a statement as this seems, Children of Men is a story you can believe, and not only that, Theo and Kee’s journey is full of real problems, unlike the other films in this genre where the protagonists inexplicably find all they need – case and point – due to lack of shoes that fit him at his father’s house, Theo spends at least a third of the film running around streets full of broken glass in flip flops and Kee’s waters break on a bus transporting the pair to a refugee camp.
The crux of the story is the attitude that Theo has and how that changes throughout the film, in the beginning, he agrees to help Julian for payment, but the story goes on, we see him risking life and limb to protect Kee and save those who have helped them along the way. He goes from the man who moans that an explosion killing a café full of people has left his ears ringing, to the man who delivers a baby in the middle of a refugee camp in the midst of ‘The Uprising’. As well as this, it showcases some of the best of Clive Owen’s acting which has varied almost as much as the genres of film that he’s been involved in. Children of Men’s cast is made up of both big name stars with the acting chops to take on the film’s serious story including Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam (who you may not recognise at all) and a supporting cast who you’ll definitely recognise, but struggle to name, prompting a lot of “Oh my god, it’s him… You know, from that thing” from whoever you watch with.
Nevertheless, none of this detracts from the scope of the film and the beautifully framed scenes courtesy of Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, it’s this vision that we see in so many of Cuarón’s films, immersing the audience in a world that is alien from our own, and yet somehow all too familiar. It’s no surprise that with such skill behind it, Children of Men was nominated for three Academy Awards (Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography & Film Editing) as well as winning two BAFTAs (Cinematography & Production Design), as is still as acclaimed now, a decade after its release. Rarely does a film have more resonance ten years after its initial release, but that is exactly how Cuarón’s dystopian epic can be seen today, serving as an eerie reflection of where our world could be heading.
Children of Men is a quintessential movie, combining quick British wit, shocking drama, incredible performances with the beautiful direction of Alfonso Cuarón, whose eye for detail and talent for novel-standard storytelling in a feature length time frame lifts this story to a higher standard of cinema.