“Children of Men”

by Natalie P.

March 25, 2007 | Filed Under Movie Reviews | 4 Comments

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The movie, “Children of Men” is based on the book of the same title, by P.D. James.  It is a view of a dystopian future in 2027 Great Britain, where the entire world has become infertile, and there hasn’t been a single baby born in over 18 years.  The world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and the UK is one of the last places in the world that claims to cling to a reasonable way of life and some form of civilization. Unfortunately, that “way of life” has become a police state where fertility tests are mandatory, immigration is banned, and illegal immigrants are rounded up, caged and sent off to refugee camps on the coast for deportation.  Underground immigrant’s rights organizations stage terror and bombing attacks, the religious right claims the infertility is god’s punishment for our wickedness, and the world seems gripped in a hopeless downward spiral.  Cuarón paints a painful but believable view of a world without children.  He also paints a vision of a future we are heading towards with global warming, globalization, inequities and migration of populations as the world’s climate and environment change.  You have to wonder if the US isn’t flying headlong towards that vision of Britain envisioned in 2027, when you look at the fear and hysteria building around illegal immigrants coming up from Mexico. 

The look of the film is gritty and dark, but it doesn’t try to be another “Blade Runner” – in fact the set designers really wanted to get away from that.  Visually, it’s stunning.  One reason to own the DVD, is that you really need to see it multiple times to catch all the backgrounds and images that capture the essence of this world in decline. The set designers did a remarkable job.  From a cinematographic standpoint, there are some very impressive “single” shot sequences that really add to the tension and dark feel of the film.

The central character, Theo, played by Clive Owen, is an anti-hero of sorts. He’s a listless alcoholic who has himself given into the despair that has captured the world. He walks through life like some kind of zombie until he is kidnapped by FISH – the immigrant’s rights organization, and finds that his ex (girlfriend? wife?) Julian, (played by Julianne Moore), is behind the kidnapping.  She asks him to escort a woman, Kee, played by Claire-Hope Ashite to a location on the seaside so that she can meet up with a boat that will take her away to some utopian refuge run by a mysterious organization called “The Human Project”. It’s not clear if this organization is real or a myth created to inspire hope in a time of desperation.

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4 comments so far
  1. K March 26, 2007 11:16 am

    I also enjoyed this movie even I didn’t think I would on the grounds that I was expecting it to be about how the evil wimmen folk forgetting their place caused the downfall of humanity and was pleased to find in some ways it was almost the opposite. I think you’re right about the fact that if it were female infertility that were the cause women would certainly more restricted, probably to the point where the CDC report would actually be enforced in law.
    As a Brit, I certainly found the immgration theme something I could seriously see happening here as the anti-immgration fever that a large portion our press regularly whips up out of all proportion seems to be driving home office policies on those seeking refugee status (legal or not) here. I think the illegal immigrant status of Kee is implied because very often we forget that they are people too, just like people forget that women are.
    Finally though it should be noted that one swallow does not make a spring.

  2. Alka March 29, 2007 8:07 pm

    A different perspective – the movie was disappointing.
    Too much irrelevant violence, Christian scripture of the ‘Virgin Mary’ who here happens to be a black girl who on occasion says “fuck, shit, and/or this asshole”. A masculine hero who sometimes fills the role of Joseph and at other times Jesus the martyr (i don’t know if i liked either of the variations). No breastfeeding…but we all know that breasts are really for men’s pleasure rather than feeding a baby… and alright, i suppose i could have overlooked, but the sheer human stupidity and shallowness (of the director) that repeatedly played out was just overwhelming. No thought by the author (maybe), director, or anyone else about how we come to know what we know and how wrong what we’ve come to know is ‘accepted uncritically’…. myth is everywhere but some myth is likely to do every day harm (like the way we understand food – food is every day). Good example: the woman gave birth laying down. She might as well have placed her feet in stirrups and served the almighty ‘doctor’ (or an inexperienced man in this case). A medicalized birth, a false idea of how a woman should give birth. You would think that by the time we get to the point of infertility, we’d be more inclined to be informed about the natural and universal ways in which women give birth. In truth, the optimal position for birth is squatting, and women have been giving birth in this way since we gave birth. Still practiced across most of the world except in institutionalized birth practices of the west. Yes, most of us are detached from the humane in human. Some women chose a c-section, or not to breastfeed; some men like shallow movies filled with action and violence only to confirm and reaffirm myths about masculinity. Both stripped of self-respect, dignity, humanity. A lot of people don’t seem to mind. Granted, the idea is great, but the reality still conforms to stereotypical notions of what is and what should be. Inaccuracies abound.

  3. Natalie P. March 30, 2007 12:36 am

    Alka, Alka, Alka, you are missing the point here – it’s portraying a DYStopian future. Not Utopian.   The not too-distant future is rife with stereotypes. Just like today. Quelle surprise.

    Hmmm… sometimes I like shallow movies filled with action and violence. I suppose Alka would suggest (from atop the soapbox) that is because I want confirm and reaffirm myths about masculinity? *snort*

    Sounds like intellectual wanking to me.

    I don’t know what movie YOU were watching, but I saw plenty in the movie that points to people accepting uncritically what we know to be wrong (that’s what gives it so much of its impact) – it just doesn’t sit there overtly sermonizing and moralizing about it.

    And as for “natural and universal ways” that women give birth and the movie being somehow biased or inaccurate because it shows Kee laying down, and OBVIOUSLY by that point people should, like, just KNOW that squatting is the right and proper way… except for that little fact that nobody has given birth for 18 years. Under those circumstances, I would find it highly unrealistic that there would be much knowledge at ALL about giving birth or breastfeeding for that matter.

    And speaking from personal experience, having popped two screaming tykes into this world, I can tell you that the LAST thing I would want to do is give birth on my feet squatting – and I *was* given the option. I’d have passed out. Not to mention the risk of tearing if there isn’t someone there to seriously slow the birth. The last thing I would want is my kid shooting out with the cord wrapped around his neck, using gravity to rip the placenta along the way…

    What Alka’s “different perspective” reaffirms is that everybody and their dog has an agenda about how women should behave and what they should be doing – whether pregnant, or giving birth, or rearing children. It doesn’t mean that those agendas are valid, nor does it mean that they make any sense in the context of another person’s film.

  4. Chris B. November 19, 2008 9:51 pm

    Why did they decide to make the change from male infertility to female infertility? I assumed it was because male infertility is easier to get around, and would have been less apocalyptic, especially after the developments in reproductive technology since the book was written. Let’s face it, men are more disposable when it comes to reproduction. If every man on earth suddenly became completely infertile, there are still millions of sperm samples on ice which could be good for decades, and it might not take too long to develop viable human cloning techniques under such dire circumstances. So reproduction could continue on some level. But if every woman on earth suddenly became completely infertile . . . we’re screwed. That’s what makes the movie apocalyptic.


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