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Archive for December 4th, 2009

Children of Men

Unfairly missing from my Top Ten Post Star Wars Sci-Fi Movies blog I decided to take another look at Children of Men. (Thanks to The Mad Hatter from The dark of the Matinee for reminding me of my omission). 

The most frightening thing about Children of Men is its production design and familiarity it brings. Moving away from traditional Sci-fi conventions, this is a dystopian future that looks like the present day. So much so that it is easy to forget that it is a Sci-Fi movie you are watching and hard to ignore as the problems we are making for ourselves in the modern world. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (a very talented cinematographer who has worked with some great directors on hugely varied films including: The New World, Ali, Y tu mamá también, Sleepy Hollow and Reality Bites. He has been nominated for four Oscars). The film is shot very much like a documentary, the handheld camera giving the actors lots of space and not zooming in close, as is the current trend. There are also so great scenes with long takes used to great effect, the film is spectacular in that it is hauntingly familiar and like nothing you have seen before at the same time.

Considering the world is clearly overpopulated at the moment and we are destroying it with excess the one thing that we are not worried about is fertility. If however we lost the ability to reproduce, the children of today would be the last generation of the human race. A prospect more devastating than the rubbish Roland Emmerich dreams up. But that is exactly the story Children of Men is telling. After nearly two decades of infertility the youngest person on the planet is eighteen years old. This understandably has lead to a sense of despair throughout the world. In the UK things are supposedly better despite a loss of civil liberties and increasing terrorist attacks. Refugees are rounded up and put into cages reminiscent of TV images of the Guantanamo Bay before being sent to ghetto like refugee camps. The country is full of checkpoints and immigration officers. To its credit the film doesn’t dream up a reason for the infertility and explore it, instead it takes a more human point of view dealing with everyday people.

Into this steps an unlikely hero Theo Faron (Clive Owen) (aren’t all the best heroes unlikely!), hard drinking cynical and lost he had given up. He is contacted by political activist and former girlfriend Julian (Julianne Moore) who pays him to help transport a young woman, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to a possibly mythical sanctuary. As their lives are threatened Kee revels her secret, she is pregnant. Theo almost instantly regains a sense of purpose combined with a certain amount of chivalry and determination. Is he looking for redemption (for himself and symbolically for society) or has he just found a purpose in life? For all its dystopian Science fiction and action it is essentially a road move and as such has existential themes. Positively dripping with symbolism and meaning it is easy to forget the film is often humorous and less bleak than it sounds. As well as the fantastic direction and photography it also has stunning and effective sound design. The cast and the performances they give are perfect with Owen is on top form and great support from Michael Caine and Peter Mullan but the standout performance comes from the virtually unknown Clare-Hope Ashitey.

 Ultimately whether you take it as a film about humanity, human nature, destruction of the environment, the dangers of technological and scientific advances or even religion it is a film of hope. The birth of Kee’s baby is a rebirth for mankind and society, it is a second chance. It gives hope, if only a glimmer of hope from the pits of despair. But then without despair there is no need for hope.

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