1.15.2007

REVIEW: Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

In the year 2027 the world’s biggest celebrity is also the world’s youngest person… and he’s 18. The women of earth have been infertile since 2009 and humanity has descended into a form of organized chaos. Enter Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a relatable chap who lost his own son years ago, living in a proud yet hectic Britain. He’s about to be caught up in the secret center of this global dilemma through a group led by his former wife. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine (who I never thought I'd hear say "pull my finger") join some relatively fresh faces for Alfonso Cuaron’s adaptation of Phyllis Dorothy James’ novel.

My expectations were kept low simply because the premise sounded too good to be true. Author James has found a way to plunge modern day society into a situation where we are forced to look at the nuts and bolts of reality while also scoping out the bigger picture rather than doggy-paddle through our convoluted environment of wishy-washy falsehoods and shove our heads further up our own asses. Cuaron handles the proceedings in an ultimately realistic fashion that strongly echoes the stubbornly simple vibes of other recent realism-revolution indies. That realism makes for a film-going experience that feels mostly unique now but may become victim to over saturation if the style flux continues. What it does provide to massive success is a tense existence in which anything feasible can happen without warning - an existence that I would imagine is fairly similar to present-day Baghdad.

The entire art team, from costumes to set decoration etc, did a stellar job bringing this pre-apocalyptic world to life with intricate detail. It’s so wonderful to see a film, particularly one of the sci-fi strain, whose crew has thoroughly thought through the probable environmental and technological evolution of humanity so that the final product can reflect a future that actually makes sense. There were also some nice nods to classic and modern art masterpieces, including Pink Floyd's Animals album.

The soundtrack featured a variety of musical genres with songs from some lesser known artists. Most notable among them was the groovy, forgotten and very appropriately placed "Bring On The Lucie" by John Lennon. Also, and I’m putting this here because I’m not going to try to build it into a separate paragraph, the screenwriting team avoided exposition in most every way. Sure, there were a few moments of the hackneyed okay-we-only-have-2-hours-to-tell-this-story syndrome but aside from that we didn’t have any sidekick characters narrating the action for us as if we were trained wallet-monkeys who aren’t capable of understanding visual themes and story progression.

As I mentioned above, I was worried that Children of Men’s premise was too good to be true. I didn’t think the conclusion would do justice to the initial idea and that it might even run the risk of becoming cheesy. I was thankfully proven incorrect in my doubts - this film holds up very well and should be seen by everyone. In an odd way, considering its fanciful nature, it’s eye-opening. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a new film and left the theater with a humbled and/or enlightened feeling.

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