Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Some Thoughts on Children of Men

Beautifully bleak, Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Children of Men (2005) presents a societal collapse painted in tones of brown and grey with the occasional spatter of blood red. Set nearly twenty years after the birth of the last surviving baby, civilization is crumbling under the weight of hopelessness and fury. In the United Kingdom, immigrants and refugees suffer the wrath of Fascist Britain. The privileged class may have food and lodging, but even their plight is ultimately hopeless, so the government hands out free euthanasia kits. After all, a world without children is a world without a future, so why go on?

In the midst of this doomed landscape we meet Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a middle-class divorcee who finds himself dragged into the role of guardian to the first pregnant woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey). Faron didn't ask for this job, but he understands its importance, and shepherds Kee and her baby through the hellish landscape that is rubble-strewn Britain. The journey is fraught with violence and betrayal as the decay of civil society seems to accelerate around Faron and Kee, until they are caught up in a vicious urban street battle that seems a precursor to all-out war. The end is nigh.

That end comes at sea, in the frigid waters of the English Channel, in the pale red light of a blinking buoy. There is death, but there is also hope - if there can be hope at all for this ruined world. Can the cry of a newborn save humanity? Perhaps. But perhaps it's just the last gasp of a doomed species. 

2 comments:

Jeff Shyluk said...

This is one of my favourite films! It is very bleak, but also compelling. Without any of the violence or harrowing emotions, it stands as a masterclass on the technical aspects of how to put a film together. There are so many details and so many character attributes that are tossed up into the air like juggler's balls, but all of them are caught and have a proper accounting. Nothing that is mentioned or shown in the film is without significance.

Watching this film is like having someone solve your Rubik's Cube for you. It's sat on your desk forever. One side is correct while the hidden sides are chaotic. Then, as if by magic, your mentor turns the cube in their hands and it comes out with all of the sides perfect. And it means nothing. By tomorrow, the cube will have one side solved and the others will be a mess again. But you come away knowing that there is a solution, and if a Rubik's cube can be solved, other things could be as well.

There's a book. I've been meaning to read it for years. Apparently, it's different from the film. My appetite for apocalypse isn't very strong right now.

On my Rubik's Cube, the orange side is solved.

Sean Woods said...

That's a great point, Jeff. Not a single scene is wasted. Every shot matters.

I recall being disappointed by the book, but I read it many, many years ago