I’m part of what I consider to be a fairly unique Bible study. It may be unfair to call it a Bible study, but it is indeed a small group that meets, discusses God and fellowships together. We also watch current movies and try new bottles of wine. The latest offering (of movies, not wine) was Alfonso Cuaron’s movie Children of Men. According to Wikipedia the film is set in a dystopian 2027, in which two decades of global infertility have left the entire human race with less than a century before extinction. The resulting widespread societal collapse has led to terrorism, environmental destruction, and the creation of millions of refugees. In Britain, where the film is set, the government is creating a new social order based on the persecution of illegal immigrants. Humanity’s best apparent hope lies with the secretive Human Project, a group working to save the human species. When a pregnant West African refugee named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) surfaces, civil servant Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is persuaded to transport her to a rendezvous with the Human Project, while at the same time keeping her safe from Britain’s oppressive crackdown on immigrants.
Well it sounds heavy and it is. My brother Andrew recommended this one, and at first I wondered what exactly we were getting into. I’ve seen a lot of British films, but for some reason at the beginning of this one I was really struggling with the dialogue. A combination of tough accents and tough dialogue had me rewinding a couple of critical scenes. This is not the type of movie we get a voice over for, explaining why it is there are no children, why explosions are happening everywhere, why the environment is nearly totally destroyed and why Britain is really the only surviving successful (successful is a relative term here) country left on Earth.
We’re left to imagine (at least this is what I came up with) that immigration has stopped because Islamist militants are destroying the world, the environment is destroyed because people don’t feel they need to take care of it for another generation, and women can’t conceive because of something in the water.
In the end, the answers to those questions aren’t that important. What we eventually deem to be the most important is the amazing character Kee. The hope of the free world (or what’s left of it at least) lie on (and in) her. She is a young mother-to-be who in a rare funny moment jokes that she is a virgin. Kee and Theo (Clive Owen’s character) run into trouble because they suspect that the government won’t allow Kee to keep her baby because she herself is an illegal alien or ‘fugee’ and an upstart rebellious group who fights for illegal immigrants wants the baby for their own purposes.
Kee and Theo must begin a journey to the coast, where they’ll be able to hook Kee up with a boat disguised as a fishing boat and sailing as part of the Human Project: a mysterious organization that holds promise for a (re)productive future.
The movie is unique in a number of ways. As I’ve already mentioned it doesn’t go seeking to answer the myriad of questions the average viewer will have. It also presents a very bleak, but realistic picture of a future that is entirely hopeless. This is not a Spielbergian future with ridiculous amounts of advertising, neon, technology and robotics. This is a gray, polluted, grimy, gritty future that isn’t too far-fetched. Also unique are two amazing sequences filmed with a steady-cam that are both long, and include amazing visuals. These are not the kind of scenes you would want to have to shoot twice! They have that Saving Private Ryan, hand-held, in-the-action feel, and they’re very effective.
The most unique scene in my opinion, however, is the birth sequence. I may be spoiling things here, but this is an amazing shot. I am the father of four boys myself, and was present for all births. I fully expected to have a life-changing, emotionally charged experience as I saw them being born. Of course the experience was incredible, but the reality of it all seemed to outweigh the emotional element I was expecting. Kee gives birth in a filthy room, on a germ-infested mattress in a sickening refugee camp. In that moment (which I can only imagine was an actual real birth), every ounce of emotion hit me with the subtlety of a train wreck. Had I not been with a large group of other people whom I didn’t want to blubber around, I would have paused the movie for my decades-overdue weepathon.
The movie also includes some great characters brought to life with Micheal Caine and Julianne Moore.
One incredible scene near the end has Clive Owen escorting Kee through a war zone, with both sides stopping to see what it is they’re carrying. The cries, and then the sight of the little baby brings a temporary peace to the town.
It gets you thinking about the future, and in the end the hope we have in the present. As my brother explained to me, this is the Nativity story people should have gone to this year. A film well worth seeing.