By Don Simpson | March 2, 2009
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer(s): Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, P.D. James (novel The Children of Men)
Staring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan, Michael Caine
The year is 2027 and the human population has not produced a child for 18 years. The infertility remains unexplained, but we are left with hints that it could be pollution, poor diet and substance abuse. The future of humankind is quickly fading into the dense smog and pollution of a world that no longer cares. As the rest of the world has corroded into absolute anarchy, Great Britain is the one surviving nation due to their strict totalitarian immigration policies enforced by Homeland Security. Instead of opening its arms to their decaying neighbors of the world, Britain isolates itself as a means for self-preservation. As the only safe haven in the world, Britain attracts refugees from around the world. These “fugees” are quickly herded into torturous detainment camps — resembling Abu Ghraib — then deported. A resistance — known to the press and government as “terrorists” — has formed to fight for the rights of the illegal immigrants to remain in the one surviving nation on Earth.
As dim and depressing a picture painted by director Alfonso Cuarón (adapted from the P.D. James novel), there is a glimmer of hope. A “fugee” named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is holding the key to the future in her belly, the first baby to be born in 18 years. The baby may be the one miracle necessary to give the human population enough faith in their future to curtail the worldwide fighting and anarchy.
The release of Children of Men on Christmas day is by no means an accident. The use of the Christian iconologies, such as a child born in a humble abode (a bombed out ghetto, rather than a barn) to save mankind and an ark (I mean, ship) used to preserve the species, are purposeful as reference (and joking) points but in no way sermonic. Thanks be to god!
Theo (Clive Owen) is the cynical anti-hero, a wounded soul who once had passion and drive as an activist. Theo has thrown in the towel thanks to his seemingly unsuccessful activism, failed marriage and the death of his son, Dylan. The memories of his past torment him endlessly. The only escape Theo has from his inner-turmoil is during his visits to his old comrade Jasper’s (Michael Caine) house. Even though he surrounds himself in news clippings and fond memories of the past, Jasper has quite literally escaped from the modern world, living safely in the seclusion of the English countryside in a perpetual state of strawberry-flavored highness.
Theo was once married to the person presently on the top of the most wanted list in Britain, Julian (Julianne Moore). Julian runs an activist group fighting for “fugee” rights. Though categorized as a terrorist, she is peaceful, honest, focused and of high morals. It is not until the leadership of the activist group changes to a man that the politics change to selfishness, manipulation, lies and violence of a male-dominated society.
Julian re-appears in Theo’s life long enough to recruit him to save Kee and deliver her to the near-mythic Human Project’s ship in order to further their research in human fertility. Reluctantly, out of love and/or greed, Theo accepts the challenge and the journey to the coast begins. Even in a world saturated in evil and violence, Theo and Kee find good people to help them along their journey. The foremost assistance comes from Jasper who, thanks to future held within Kee, is fueled by his willingness to take up his activist arms once again.
Despite the futuristic timeline, Children of Men is solidly grounded in the world of today. Presently we are haunted by many of the same issues of this world of the future: pollution, immigration, mass migration to urban centers, senseless violence, poor diet, drug abuse, political control, etc. This film is not about the future; it is about today being the breeding ground for total anarchy and chaos in a mere 20 years. This bleak future is within most of our (the audience) lifetime, infertility only a couple years away.
Children of Men is not an easy film; it is thought-provoking and distressing. No solutions are handed to us. Cuarón merely provides hope that humankind may not necessarily end in the next 20 years, but we will have to suffer through hell on earth if we don’t start making better decisions for our future.