January 27th, 2007
Children of Men is a dystopian fantasy set in Britain in the very near future. Loosely based on a novel by P.D. James, the central idea is simple and shocking: Human beings are no longer fertile. This generation will be the last.
Marked by terrorist bombings and widespread racial conflict between native Britons and “Fugees” (refugees), the world of the movie is bleaker and more hopeless than ours - but not by a lot.
Would you be surprised if the chemicals we’ve pumped into the food, the water, the air, and the earth itself have damaged our ability to reproduce? I wouldn’t. I think it is already happening. (The cause isn’t spelled out in the film.)
Children of Men features strong performances by Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, and Claire-Hope Ashitey. Caine has an endearing turn as an old hippy, based, he says, on John Lennon, whom he knew.
Ashitey plays Kee, miraculously pregnant, who holds the key to the rebirth of mankind. Assisted by two women named Mary (more precisely Miriam and Marichka), and accompanied by Theo (whose name means “the divine”), Kee and her child provide a religious centrepiece to what would otherwise be a fairly mundane chase plot.
Kee and the miracle child inspire awe in everyone who sees them. Groups of soldiers lower their weapons to gaze at the child in wonderment, at least for a moment, before resuming their ongoing urban warfare against the Fugees and various rebel groups.
Scary, thought-provoking, and close to home, with strong characters and excellent performances, the strength of Children of Men is in the details. This is a fully-realized world where garbage is hurled out of windows by people who no longer care, refugees are rounded up and herded into cages, an organization called The Ark collects world art masterpieces for no one to see, and the government hands out suicide kits to the citizens.
What happens in the end? I’m not sure if it is the true hope of the world or another tawdry scam. I think how you see the ending depends on whether you are a glass-half-full kind of person or not. Either way, you should see this movie.