CHILDREN OF MEN
General Release 2006
109 minutes approx
Theo Faron -
Written by -
Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J Sexton & David Arata & Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Directed by -
It's 2027 and the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. For reasons as yet unknown, no baby has been born in 18 years and the human race has lost its hope, for what hope is there when there is no future? The human race dies out with this generation, so what's really the point in anything. As civilisation crumbles, Britain struggles on, helped by an almost totalitarian police state in which it is illegal to avoid fertility tests and illegal aliens are interned in huge concentration camps and then deported or killed without mercy. A lucky elite live in luxury whilst the rest suffer the ever downward spiral of despair.
In the midst of all this is Theo (Clive Owen), a man drifting along on his own wave of apathy. Then he is kidnapped by his old girlfriend (Julianne Moore), mother of the child they both lost to a flu pandemic and still the kind of radical fighter that he once was. Her fight is now with the Fishes, a group fighting for the rights of the illegal immigrants, but she has a greater task now, that of getting a young woman to a meeting with a boat off the south coast. This woman is the first in 18 years to get pregnant and that is such a powerful symbol of hope that many groups would do anything to get hold of it.
There's not a lot of fun to be had in CHILDREN OF MEN, but then it's not that kind of science fiction. It's well known that this genre can mirror the concerns of the time more openly than many others and this is the perfect example of that. Using the infertility as a catalyst, this film examines the breakdown of the family and society as a whole. Without families, without children, society cannot hold and anarchy is the result.
The big debate over illegal immigration is taken to its extreme with a depiction of a state in which to be an illegal immigrant is to be stripped of all rights, to be caged, treated like animals, imprisoned and even shot without any mercy. And yet it is the immigrant community that proves to be of significance in the film. The Fishes are fighting for their rights, they provide the most assistance and it is one of their number that bears the all-important child. None of this, though, is rammed down our throats. This is not propaganda, just an examination of the times through science fiction's distorting mirror.
There are problems with it, of course. There are no likeable characters at all (with the exception of Michael Caine's pantomime pothead hippy) and Clive Owen's lead character is so stripped of emotion and hope that his eventual redemption doesn't register on the emotional scale as it should. Julianne Moore (an actress that we really have time for here at the SCI FI FREAK SITE manages to make no impact at all in her role as his lover and captor. You are left wondering what it was, and is, that would make him risk everything for her. Other characters are, and remain, in the background, rendering the threat from the Fishes less overpowering and the fates of those that the heroes meet along their way less affecting.
Alfonso Cuaron's direction, is partly at fault for this. His depiction of the depressed, devastated future is impeccable and one of the film's greatest plus points, but the coldness of the colour scheme extends to his treatment of the characters and a couple of nostalgic speeches isn't enough to give them any depth for us.
There are also flashes of real power in the film as well. The moment when a full-scale battle is silenced by the cry of a new-born baby is undeniably full of resonance and almost succeeds in wiping out all the doubts about the film away in one moment.
CHILDREN OF MEN is a little too cerebral and cold to be completely successful, but it is easily the most thought-provoking and convincing portrayal of the future that the genre has seen in quite a long time.Top
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