The year is 2021 and the world has descended into chaos. Human beings can no longer procreate and the youngest person has just died at 18 years old. The government has more or less declared martial law, literally caging immigrants and waging war in the streets with motley packs of insurgents. The planet has lost hope with the realization of its impending doom.
As such a description might imply, Children of Men is almost more of a ride than a film. Alfonso CuarÃ³n (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mamá TambiÃ©n) guides the viewer through a bleak, dystopian, not-so-far-off future with a visceral and poignant accuracy that impacts with incredible force.
Theodore Faron (Clive Owen of Sin City and Closer) is an ex-activist turned bureaucrat kidnapped by an underground rebel movement. The group has knowledge of a woman who has miraculously become pregnant. She needs Faron to obtain transport papers for them so they can get her to the mysterious but apparently helpful Human Project.
The film jarringly transitions into an intensely realistic chase as the plot unfolds. Faron becomes the escort to Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), the pregnant mother, and takes it upon himself to get her to the Human Project. The desperation of trying to transport a pregnant woman through the increasingly barbarous and violent world is communicated flawlessly. Portions of the action are filmed with handheld cameras, bringing the viewer up close and personal to the nightmarish, apocalyptic environment.
As the viewer follows Faron through the film, the world is shown from the viewpoint of the rich, the poor, the rebel and the authority. The approach gives the viewer an intimate perspective on how different members of society choose – or in some cases are forced – to deal with their decaying surroundings.
Vague parallels are drawn between the present reality and the future portrayed in the story, giving the viewer a context from which to draw a personal connection. An offhand mention of a flu epidemic in the late 2000s that caused massive numbers of casualties makes the sometimes all-too-real film that much more terrifying.
But while Children of Men is by no means light, there are points where CuarÃ³n manages to punctuate the drudgery with bits of tongue in cheek humor, such as when Kee jokingly tells Faron that there is no father to her child, inferring that she is a virgin.
It’s true the film leaves many important questions unanswered. While some may see this as a copout, it somehow adds depth, leaving the viewer to speculate on the answers instead of spoon-feeding them plot. However, it’s easy to overlook the minimal flaws in the script in the face of CuarÃ³n’s fantastic directing.