Review: Children Of Men (2006)

How come it’s always Britain who manages to get their shit together in the dystopian future of movies!

Screenplay By: David Arata, Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, & Timothy J. Sexton
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

There’s a difference between feminism and femininity, at least there is in my mind. Children Of Men isn’t a story of feminism, but it is a story about the power of femininity. The first time I watched Alfonso Cuarón’s science fiction tome I was convinced the film was about the power of children. Outwardly I believe this is still a facet of the films layered themes. On the surface children are the order of the day in this dystopian British future. Beneath the surface the power of women within our culture is the larger raison d’être for Children Of Men.

Clive Owen’s Theo Faren isn’t a force for good of his own accord. It takes the actions of his ex-wife and the endangerment of a young girl to drive him into action. The government figures we encounter are all male, as are the supposed freedom fighters we do see, save for Julian and Miriam. It’s telling that the two female freedom fighters we see (there are a couple of others we hear, but we never see them I don’t think) have the most peaceful intentions of any characters in the film. Senor Cuarón’s film shows us the worst of humanity, but it shows us that femininity and the womanly virtues we take for granted also represent and bring out the best in humanity.

At the same time Children Of Men is harsh on the fate of humanity. While the film does posit that femininity is an empowering force for the human race the film also takes the stance that humanity is its own worst enemy. It doesn’t matter how empowering femininity can be, humanity will ignore that power. The birth of a baby, a female baby at that, is not the saving grace of the world created in Children Of Men. The men who believe they have the power will not drop their war mongering and attempts at grabbing their own power. In this way the unseen female characters, those talking during the Fishes meeting at the farmhouse are key figures. By making sure their voices are heard the film avoids painting women as saintly figures corrupted by the evilness of man. Women are capable of just as much evil as man, and if they are willing to ignore their true inner power then humanity is doomed regardless of the birth of a baby.

The themes and messages within Children Of Men are served well by some top notch filmmaking. The camera of Alfonso Cuarón is distant yet intimate at the same time. This creates a barrier around the lives of the characters in the film. We get to know them and we feel for their plight, but at the same time we are kept at bay. This allows for Children Of Men to take on the role of a cautionary science fiction tale. We are on the outside looking in, with only Senor Cuarón to keep us safe and show us the future we do not want.

Of special note is the famous car chase scene and the scene of Theo running through the bombed out streets of Bexhill after Kee has been taken. Both of those scenes have a flow to them that is continuous, they appear as if they are one long take with nary a cut in sight. At first I thought these scenes, and some other longer takes within the film, were continuous single takes. The truth, however, is that CGI has been employed in most of the long takes to make them appear continuous when in fact there are a few cuts/edits at well hidden points. I will tell you that I don’t care that the long takes are not actually continuous single takes. What matters to me is that they come across as such and are impressive within the context of the film. It’s the job of the film to pull me into its world and to at times trick me with the craft of filmmaking. Children Of Men does this throughout and it never does it better than during the scenes where I am so enveloped in the action That I left with the impression that they were accomplished in one shot.

The only possible flaws that inhabit the construct that is Children Of Men are some dodgy bits of exposition. Said exposition takes place during the first thirty or so minutes of the film. It needs to be there, and it’s not a major flaw, but it is obvious and sometimes clunky exposition. When that is my only complaint with the film it should be crystal clear that I think very highly of Children Of Men. The dystopian film that is as rich with emotion as it is with intellectual themes is a rare bird indeed. Children Of Men is one such rare bird and that’s why watching this film from Alfonso Cuarón is always a rewarding experience.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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13 responses to “Review: Children Of Men (2006)

  1. Actually, the movie has only one flaw — it completely trashes the book. And doesn’t even do it in a good way.

  2. Film is a different medium, thus the film owes nothing to the book. I enjoy the movie for being the movie it is, the book has no bearing on my feelings towards the film.

  3. I agree, generally. I can accept a well-done movie (sometimes reluctantly) that departs from the book. Frankly, though, I thought the movie stank. Personal opinion, of course.

  4. That’s perfectly fine, you are more than entitled to your opinion. I disagree, obviously, but that’s a-okay.

  5. Mark Middlemas

    One the great movie experiences of my life. Phenomenal.

  6. Children of Men was a great movie experience for me as well. I especially recall that my friend and I sat there just thinking about the movie for a few minutes after it had finished. Good stuff.

  7. I think this is a great movie and one of the best science fiction films made in the last 20 years. That’s an interesting take on the male/female themes in the film. I’ve not read that before. I don’t necessarily agree, but it is well-presented. The moment in the film where everything goes silent amidst the fighting is one seriously powerful scene.

  8. That is a powerful moment during a powerful scene, and it works so well because of how it has been built to. It matters, not just to the characters but to the audience watching as well.

  9. It’s hard to believe but those long shots were actually done in one take. Here is a link to a nice little ‘behind the scenes’ of how they accomplished this:

  10. I’m not sure if the link worked. Anyways, it’s on youtube titled ” Children Of Men 2006 [Car Scene Making Of’] “. Definitely worth checking out.

  11. I will check it out, thanks. 🙂

  12. Pingback: “Children of Men”: “Last one to die, please turn off the lights” « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

  13. Pingback: Retro Week In Cinema: April 11-17, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

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