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Children of Men Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

“Children of Men” is one of the most depressing films I’ve ever seen, yet I can watch it over and over again. The story of what happens when man has no hope and society implodes is a downer for sure, but it’s ultimately very rewarding. Every aspect of this film is just perfect. The direction is outstanding. The acting is terrific. And technically, the film is as good as any.

“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in,” remarks one character part way through “Children of Men.” It’s a quote that perfectly gives you the film’s set-up. Eighteen years before the film’s action begins, mankind becomes infertile. The film never bothers to explain this occurrence (to its credit, in my opinion; no doubt it would have been silly). Instead, it deals with the desperation of people who know they have lived to see the end of their species.

Our protagonist is Theo Faron (Clive Owen). It may seem the people of Britain are without hope, but few are as down and out as Theo. His horizon is as barren as the deserted English countryside, and since the death of his son years ago, he has pretty much given up on life. One day, he is picked up by his ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore), who is the leader of the terrorist organization, the Fishes. Julian needs Theo protecting a miraculously pregnant girl, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), and ushering her to the coast to go aboard the Tomorrow, a ship run by the mysterious Human Project. But others within The Fishes organization, including Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), disagree with Julian’s decision and want to use Kee’s baby as a political tool to help imprisoned refugees rise up against the oppressive government. Theo goes on the run with Kee and the midwife Miriam (Pam Ferris) to get to the ship. Along the way, they receive help from a hippie (Michael Caine), a crazy soldier, and a number of kind refugees.

The story is as bleak. Director Alfonso Cuaron creates a world in which you feel the despair of the characters and the hopelessness of the time and political climate in which the story takes place. Everything about England circa 2027 is down and out, and yet they are the beacon of hope throughout the world. Still, refugees live in makeshift concentration camps, bombs go off on a regular basis, and the government distributes suicide packets in case you want to end things “on your own terms.”

Technically, this is one of the finest motion pictures of the past decade if not longer. The cinematography is hands down the best I’ve ever seen. Period. Whenever someone tells me a film has great cinematography, I can’t help but think there’s no way it’s better than that of “Children of Men,” and I always end up right. It’s simply stunning. Emmanuel Lubezki uses extremely long, unbroken takes throughout the film, including one that literally follows some characters through a war zone. Nothing I can say does it justice; it has to be seen to be believed.

The acting is also exemplary. This is Clive Owen’s best role to date, even exceeding his Oscar-nominated work in “Closer.” The role doesn’t require much at first. He’s a broken down shell of his former self. But over the course of the film, he has to undergo a drastic change to become the ultimate protector and Kee’s only trustworthy ally. He does a tremendous job. Equally impressive are Michael Caine as Jasper the hippie and newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, the tough young woman tasked with ushering in a new era of hope.

“Children of Men” stunned me the first time I saw it, and repeat viewings have only made me fall more and more in love with what Alfonso Cuaron has done. This is a phenomenal achievement in every way. It was pretty much ignored by audiences, as well as by the Academy. But the critics adored it, and it developed something of a cult following. I hope film fans remember this one years from now. It’s a fascinating story and a true work of art.

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