Imagine a society where the youngest person in the world is 18 years, 4 months, 2 days, 16 hours and 8 minutes old and the most famous celebrity on the planet. ‘Baby Diego’ is special for only one reason: he was the last person ever conceived.
Children of Men takes place in 2027, where two decades of infertility has left society ravaged and on the threshold of ruin. The film takes something common and makes it the rarest, most forgotten thing – no matter who you are, it has affected you. This is evoked in the final scenes where opposing forces and refugees stop their differences amidst the ensuing chaos in amazement and adoration of the new-born baby, admiring something lost which helped society thrive and gave people something to look forward to. It is not only the fact that there is a potential return to fertility, but also this reappearance of fertility has reminded people of the happier times before this dystopian future even occurred.
Permeating the dystopian English setting is the primarily-British cast, headed by Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a former activist psychologically suffering from the death of his son 20 years prior. He needs to feel human again and the pivotal pregnancy is the inspiration he requires to rekindle not only his life but also others’. His character goes on a journey from despair to hope but he doesn’t really connect with the way he should. He suffers endlessly from the past but one doesn’t feel great sympathy for him because his acrimonious nature is quite deterring.
Clare-Hope Ashitey portrays the Kee, the pregnant illegal immigrant. At first she comes across as rude but as she warms to Theo, the audience warms to her. Perhaps, because her name Kee resembles ‘key,’ it isn’t ridiculous to come to the conclusion that she is the metaphorical key to humanity’s salvation.
Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) helms Children of Men, but author PD James is most crucial. She has made intriguing choices, such as the detail that the first woman to be fertile again is African. It was in Africa that humanity began and therefore James has intelligently created a cycle where humanity springs out like an echo of the past. This echo is the only source of hope in a society ravaged by its overwhelming futility.
The ending is bleak tinged with hope and left to the audience to decide whether that glimmer of hope can be capitalised upon or just wasted like the previous 18 years. It is like giving humanity another chance at life, similar to the story of Jesus, which is mirrored in situations during the film. Theo and Kee represent Joseph and Mary and she tells him of her pregnancy in a barn, like the Nativity, and most people’s response to the new lease of life is simply stating “Jesus Christ” in astonishment (interestingly, it was released on Christmas day in the US…)
The cinematography evokes a dystopian feel; however, the urban growl of diegetic sounds such as dogs barking and traffic noises, and the fact that it is not too futuristic in appearance, elevate it as a more realistic dystopian setting. This dystopia is not farfetched, as intense terrorism, immigration inflammation and societal meltdown in a distraught London could possibly happen. The single-shot action sequences distance the film from a typical action flick.
Why did PD James decide on an 18-year infertile interruption? It is the age where adolescence becomes adult. It is symbolic of the fact that now everyone in the world is an adult and therefore can learn from the past and nurture the new future as if it were their own child. Thus, the title emerges from the fact that everyone must be look after the new possible generation and not let this dystopia repeat itself. The film is a cautionary tale of civilisation in disarray as result of human misuse of the Earth, societally, culturally and, most importantly, environmentally.
With acres of meaning behind every action in the film, Children Of Men has a thought-provoking and fascinating premise that should interest everyone due to its universal topic, but its metaphoric nature can be too figurative at times.