Children of Men paints a dystopian future for humanity

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Children of Men

Children of Men
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine

4 stars

What would the world be without the song of children’s voices, the brilliant naiveté of their questions, or the hopefulness of their expressions?

In Children of Men, hope is a distant memory, the future is bleak and death is the human race’s only surety: it’s 2027 and humanity has been infertile since 2009.

Director and screenwriter Alfonso Cuarón brilliantly adapts P.D. James’ novel Children of Men, using details like costuming and visual design to paint a bleak, desolate vision of the future.

In Children of Men, most of the world has collapsed into chaotic violence " only Britain “soldiers on.” However, with its heavily armed police force, rampant paranoia, propaganda, and violent repression, the island is similar to 1984’s frightening “Big Brother” totalitarian state.

Refugees flock to Britain to escape the chaos consuming the rest of the world, but the government treats them like leeches on their society and encourages British citizens to weed them out. These “fugees” are herded into mass cages and transported to refugee camps reminiscent of Auschwitz.

Clive Owen stars as Theo Faron, a former activist now working as a government bureaucrat. As Theo stumbles through life emotionlessly, his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) battles the government as the leader of the “Fishes,” a terrorist group advocating rights for the “fugees.” Theo is drawn back to his ex-wife when she seeks his help in transporting the world’s only pregnant woman, Kee (Claire Hope Ashitey).

The film’s handy-cam feel is jarring but lets viewers realistically experience the hellish future. For example, in one battle scene, blood hits the camera as it captures every painful detail.

Though actors often make complex characters like Theo appear schizophrenic, Owen’s subtle performance perfectly displays Theo’s realistic but cynical personality, and Moore’s passionate but restrained portrayal of Julian is wonderful.

With his shoulder-length grey hair, grandfatherly cardigan, marijuana grow-op, strange music and warm humour, Michael Caine shines as the Theo’s confidante Jasper and provides an excellent comic foil for this dark film.

Though Kee in some ways embodies the innocence lost with infertility, Ashitey portrays her as incredibly blunt, bubbly and somewhat naïve.

Cuarón’s film may evoke two strong reactions from viewers; it could convince people to change their ways to ensure a better future or foster feelings of helplessness and futility.

There are no easy answers to the questions raised in Children of Men, but it’s a disorderly and beautiful hint at how the seeds of discontent sown today may sprout into the dystopia of tomorrow.

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