Hailed for its prescience and production, reviled for what some see as a pedant, leftist tone, Children of Men remains one of our all-time favorite movies – worthy of multiple viewings in our humble opinion. A commercial and critical disaster when it was released in 2006, audience reaction sent its director into a self-imposed exile for five years.
Set in the deteriorating cities and countryside of southeastern England of 2027, what’s left of the U.K. faces a massive refugee crisis and an inevitable turn to authoritarianism, its leaders choosing to close its borders to refugees – or “fugees.” Terrorist attacks in crumbling European capitals are routine and no one seems to know what to do. Viewed again with 2020 hindsight, Children of Men comes off like a documentary about a future the world saw realized in 2016.
Director Alfonso Cuarón wastes no time introducing us to life in London, mankind on the brink of extinction due to an inexplicable global infertility and “The Smoke,” as London was known in the 19th Century, marching inexorably toward anarchy and its old ways.
Ears ringing from a bomb blast set off by a radical group fighting the powers that be in a drastically polarized society of haves vs. have-nots, a disillusioned, bottle-hugging former radical named Theo (Clive Owen) walks us through streets polluted by sputtering tuktuks and hordes of the newly displaced.
Theo becomes a reluctant participant in a plot to save a young girl and, by extension, Earth’s future population, when his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) resurfaces and offers to pay him for his assistance in shuttling a mysterious young West African “fugee” named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to the coast. In need of money, Theo agrees. Only after Julian is murdered in front of him does he learn about Kee’s significance during a revealing moment in a dairy shed.
A grim race ensues with Theo and a hippie midwife named Miriam (Pam Ferris) struggling to get Kee to a ship piloted by the Human Project, a secretive brain trust devoted to saving humanity. They are sheltered by Theo’s off-grid, pot-smoking friend Jasper (Michael Caine) and hidden from Julian’s assassin Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Kee gives birth just as Luke’s group challenges the army – Kee and Theo escaping in a small rowboat and the future of mankind hanging in the balance.
Why We Liked It: Grabby from its opening moment. Cuarón builds an enthralling world of fascistic governments, refugee demonization, a global pandemic, an out of touch upper class. Multiple layers of dialogue and music seamlessly intertwined. Listen carefully, some knowledge of other languages, music history and rural English accents helpful.
Quotable Quote: “Y’know that ringing in your ears? That ‘eeeeeeeeee’? That’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
Where: Available on Amazon Prime.