Children of Men

Reviewed by Vic Thiessen

The year is 2027. The premise is fascinating, if rather farfetched: One fine day, in 2009, women stopped being able to conceive (whether the result of infertility in men or women is not stated), leaving the planet truly in its last days. The world is disintegrating, crime and anarchy are rampant, and the UK government (advertised as the last functioning government in the world) obviously thinks the “short-term” solution lies in keeping its borders closed and hunting down illegal immigrants. But what if one of those immigrants was pregnant?

Clive Owen plays Theo, a low-ranking government employee who is still depressed about the death of his child twenty years before. His former partner, played by Julianne Moore, is part of a radical/terrorist group called Fishes and enlists Theo’s help. He’s reluctant until he understands what is at stake. Then he becomes the action hero (though at least he has no gun) as he tries to regain some hope in the future and maybe even save the world.

The film’s atmosphere, aided by outstanding cinematography, is perfect, presenting us with a grim-looking London and a very bleak UK. Alfonso Cuaron is a good director and he gets good performances from his actors here (Clive Owen is an excellent choice as Theo, giving a very credible performance in a difficult role). But the film still disappoints, unless you’re an action fan (which I am not). One would expect a film based on a novel by P.D. James to be more intelligent, with a deeper plot and better dialogue. Instead, we get far too much running and hiding and getting caught and escaping and running again and so on, with a great deal of shooting along the way (there is apparently no shortage of arms in 2027).

The film’s message, if it has one, is also unclear. It never states why women are infertile and so we are left only with a sense that the obsession with, and treatment of, immigrants is wrong, as is perhaps the obsession with guns. But there is precious little to chew on here and the film succeeds better as escapist fare than it does as a thoughtful vision of the future (as opposed to the future London of V for Vendetta).

Nevertheless, the film does have some brilliant scenes. In one of these, Theo visits a wealthy and powerful friend of his to ask for a favour. During their discussion, Theo asks his friend how he can live with what’s going on in the city, to which the friend replies that he just doesn’t think about it. I believe this is exactly how most of us go on living day to day in a world heading for destruction. The recent film An Inconvenient Truth shows us how serious global warming has become. Meanwhile, global poverty continues to grow, as does terrorism, fuelled by exactly the wrong kind of response to the poverty, oppression and suffering of so many of the world’s people. The nationalism and racism displayed in Children of Men is very much present in our world today. In such a world, we can’t afford to think about it too much if we want some semblance of happiness. But we also can’t afford not to think about it. Fortunately, I do not share the pessimistic outlook of Children of Men, which, like many films of its kind, shows us a few good people struggling in the midst of a violent, selfish and apathetic humanity. I happen to believe that people are innately good and that the response to a global crisis, once revealed as true, would be one of love and the creation of a better world. Children of Men does offer some hope and teases us with references to the Human Project, a group that may exist somewhere (in 2027) and is trying to make the world a better place. As followers of Jesus, we must lead the way in that Human Project, exposing the truth and suggesting options for change, as Jesus did. We must also lead the way in recognizing that we are part of one human family, and that every human on this planet is a brother or sister (Jesus broke down the dividing wall of enmity to create one new humanity – Ephesians 2). Only then can we envision a future for our children (while we are still able to have them) without violence or poverty.