My husband’s always bugging me about repopulating the Earth after the apocalypse. I mean, the hypothetical “if everyone was dead but us, would you have babies?” I tend to say no, because I figure if we’ve gone that far towards our own destruction, we deserve to die off and let someone else have a chance. Children of Men makes me feel much the same way, but with lots more suspense and a better soundtrack.
It’s 2027, and no one’s been born for 18 years. No one knows why, and in fact it doesn’t really matter—like the other recent post-apocalyptic film set in England, 28 Days Later, the mechanics really aren’t the point. It’s what you do with the situation that matters. At the beginning of the film, Theo is a former activist who isn’t doing anything except drinking black coffee and visiting his friend Jasper (Michael Caine in a Gerry Garcia wig). But animals seem to like him. This of course makes him the ideal man get involved in a plot about babies, since he’s already friend to mankind’s substitute children.
Theo, because of his previous ties to the revolutionary underground, gets mixed up in a tangled political web spun around a young refugee/immigrant named Kee. Who is, miraculously and for no explainable reason, preggers. This is revealed with little Biblical subtlety but great beauty in a barn, the girl covering her breasts in an odd touch of modesty. And that’s sort of the style of the movie; Alfonso Cuaron delivers a fast-paced thriller of a sci-fi movie (which deserves to be a lot longer and more fleshed out) in beautiful, stark detail. Everything about this society indicates a world living backwards. No one bothers to clean up the trash, or prosecute pot-growers, and apparently no new songs have been written since 2003. There is no future, until this baby comes along, and even then it is uncertain. Is the baby a new hope, or merely the banner for revolution?
Cuaron’s movie appears to itself be a sort of banner, because he’s imbued it with so many Iraq War references we might as well be watching the news with better lighting. Prisoners lie in blindfolded rows, hand-held cameras get splattered with blood, and a huge sign over a refugee deportation center proclaims “Homeland Security.”
As a science fiction film, it’s too short and doesn’t go far enough. As a political message, it’s a bit heavy handed and similarly directionless. But as a suspense film with appealing sci-fi and political aspects, it’s very good. It’s beautifully filmed, the soundtrack works well, and the world-building is solid. Just don’t expect any real insight into human nature, or our future.