April 14th, 2009


Children of Men

I watched Children of Men yesterday, which makes me late to the discussion, but that's alright, because I like to have the final word about these kind of things.

Children of Men is a film set in the near future where, after an unexplained infertility hits the human population in 2009, the world sinks into a segregation and violence as an ever aging population realises that it will be the last generation on the face of the planet. At least, in part. The film itself doesn't actually engage in those concepts, but rather focuses on the segregation and racism that has given rise to the detention camps and general bad treatment of illegal immigrants. It is, from the outset, a rather odd pairing of issues that the film seeks to explore, and it never does either justice. The latter gets more play within the script when the first woman to fall pregnant is a young, illegal immigrant who has been working as a prostitute, and an activist group seek to get her to the Human Project, an unexplained concept that one is forced to detail through the title, and which one assumes is interested in the future of humanity, the birth of new children, and perhaps the return of David Bowie's early work.

For the most part, the film is a shambling, but interesting mess. Clive Owen presents a jaded, ex-activist who has become disillusioned with the world after his child died, forcing a split between him and his then wife, Julian, played by Julianne Moore. She has him kidnapped one day and bought into the play to escort the first pregnant woman in over eighteen years to the Human Project. Around them is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Luke, the right hand man of Moore's character, and Michael Caine, who plays Jasper, an elderly pot salesman living in a secluded place within the bush. The latter is also looking after his wife, who one assumes has gone into a catatonic state of shock after the death of Own and Moore's child, and the infertility of the world (EDIT: or because she was tortured). The pregnant girl is played Clare-Hope Ashitey, and Pam Ferris plays Miriam, the mid-wife who is assigned to her, and that ends my run down of people worth knowing in the film. It won't shock you to learn that there are the usual betrayals, deaths, and so on as Ashitey's Kee is rushed to the Human Project.

I think what sits wrong with me in the film is the two thematic pieces. Overall, director Alfonso Cuaron (with the thing over the 'o' in Cuaron) presents a decently paced, and worked film. He builds a society sitting on the edge of hysteria nicely, and I thought he referenced the Gaza Strip nicely within the detention camp that the characters end up on at the end (though this just might have been my reference, and not intentional). But, with that said, there's not enough in the script, and he seems interested in something that is not central to the idea that powers the narrative of the film. There were constant moments within it that I wanted to see things questioned. For example, animals were still having babies. How was that possible? Why was the infertility limited to humans? There was, I thought, a bit of an unfortunate hint that it was women who were infertile, but that may have just been because of the fact that it was a woman who fell pregnant within the narrative. I would still have liked to see it addressed, however, and explored; and I would have liked to have seen the immigration issues linked to this lack of new children, too. The question that I kept asking in my head was, with the ever ageing and dying population, was why there were such population/immigration issues? Would not the world's population have been shrinking rapidly, and thus leaving space? And would not all young people become these things to be cherished and pampered, raising them to an even more prominent status in our society than already exists? (When the film began, I actually thought it was going to make a commentary on the way that youth has become a commodity, and that your growing age sees you diminish just not in attractiveness, but use, potential, and marketability.)

With none of these issues properly addressed within the film, I did try to get into the immigration issues that the film raised, and I could see a lot in it that I could reference to the australian government's treatment of illegal immigrants, but again, after seeing it, I found myself wondering what it planned to do with the concept?

The answer wasn't much.

Still, I enjoyed it, even if the scene in which Theo and Kee walk out of the building with a baby and everyone stands there in awe, having stopped shooting and bombing, was really ridiculous.