Children of Men: 4 & ½ Stars (out of 5)
It might have seemed daunting for Alfonso Cuarón to follow up the success of his last two films (Y tu mamá también and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,) but he’s passed with flying colors in his newest film, Children of Men. Taking a look at a world where creating future generations of humans has become suddenly impossible, Cuarón gives us a startlingly realistic look at how an entire race of people can lose so much when they panic.
Set in 18 years after the last human birth, the film centers on Clive Owen‘s character, who is charged with protecting a young and rather preggers woman. Living in a totalitarian England, they set out for a mysterious oasis known only as the Human Project, with hopes to escape a bureaucracy that would likely tangle the child into politics and away from its mother. But this is easier said than done, as escaping the UK encompasses running from the cops, an underground society and sneaking into a refugee camp governed by bombs, bullets and tanks.
The reasons for mankind’s sudden inability to procreate are never explained – it’s just presented as fact. This isn’t a big deal, as the film isn’t about biology, or a fable trying to warn us what consequences we might face in the future as a result of some currant habits (cough global warming cough); but those who walk in expecting a Sci-Fi film will be sorely mistaken when they find out the film is purely a study of how society malfunctions in extreme situations.
But it’s this exploration of how mankind works is perhaps its best asset. A stark and sometimes disturbing look at how our accomplished civilization might crumble at the drop of a dime, Children of Men is nothing if not insightful. The UK, which is supposedly the last nation still standing in this near-apocalyptic world, is full of bombings, patriotic posters and fences keeping out bums, foreigners and anyone else who may pose a threat to their failing society. In other words, it’s not a pretty place to live.
Cuarón helps successfully realizes the world. He employs a color pallet with a full spectrum of grays and worn colors. His surprising use of several one-shots that last multiple minutes help the audience to realize a realness to this world, making it more believable that a random mob with dozens of citizens without a cause might attack an SUV without reason. Cuarón’s look for the film is both elegant and heart-breaking – he creates a downtrodden world with great beauty.
Also to be mentioned is Owen. It’s not easy to put a human face on a world of cynics and pessimists; but with his character Theo, Owen shows us how people could believably turn from being otherwise happy people to feeling miserable every day of the week.
But most credit is still due to Cuarón for giving us such a realistic look at what could happen if one aspect of our biology that’s take for granted is misplaced. And despite his already intimidating resumé, Children of Men is surely worthy of a spot in Cuarón’s filmography.