Children of Men: A look back on a look forward

Ten years ago on Christmas day, a film was released to the world that at the time was not very well known. The director wasn’t a household name, and despite his previous film making $249.4 million, arguably the best Harry Potter movie(Prisoner of Azkaban) he remained unknown. When it came to the Harry Potter films, the actors and characters mattered far more than the individuals behind the camera.

The director is Alfonso Cuarón, and the film that he released was Children of Men. You may know Alfonso more for his most recent box office smash Gravity, in which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. Children of Men was nominated for 3 awards, however it deserved far more nominations then it received.  I’m going to do my very best to not spoil any of the movie for you as I explain the significance of this movie, and how it deserves far more notoriety.

Children of Men is a film based on a book of the same name written by P.D. James that takes place in not so distant future England. Our main character Theo, played by Clive Owen, is a nobody who lives a normal life.  He seems normal, however, his surroundings are not. The opening scene of the film finds Theo walking into a café to grab a coffee. Shortly after he grabs his drink and walks off, an explosion rips through the very café he just walked out of. As he recovers a woman walks out of the café lethargic and missing an arm.


As you can see, the world is not in good shape. The main reason the world has gone under? Every woman in the world is now infertile. Plainly that means not a single child has been born in many years. In fact, prior to the bomb exploding a news reel showed on the television that the youngest person in the world was murdered. He was 18 years old. Signs liter the streets with demands that women get tested to see if they are fertile.


The world has fallen into utter ruin. Though it is never really shown, everything outside of England is an apocalyptic wasteland of disease, war, poverty, and civil unrest. England continues to be the only country in the world that moves in a semi-civilized manner.


This proves to be problematic however, as being the only safe and habitable country, it’s the only country anyone wants to go to.  This causes problems with illegal immigration, or as others put it, refugees.


Illegal immigration is a cause for much of the instability in a country that is already on the brink of chaos.  Billions of people from all walks of live have flocked to England for shelter and safety. The English treat them as lower than dogs, caging them like animals while tearing their homes apart searching for whatever they please.


The police and military are brutal, and more importantly, their demeanor can be our future.

One of the reasons this movie is so significant now, more than it was at the time, is the notion that immigrants are lesser people than the people of England. In the movie, immigrants are sent to refugee camps to live. These camps are more like a prison. If we, as 1st world citizens, aren’t careful, this will be our future. Even now, countries across the world are doing their part to not only ban refugees entirely, but also providing poor shelter for those they cannot depose of. In our reality and in the movie, this causes massive unrest and creates distrust and resentment. This leads to violence and chaos.


In one of the more memorable scenes, the main characters break into a refugee camp known as Bexhill. As they approach Bexhill via gated bus, Theo begins to understand the horrors that await most immigrants that enter the country. Looking out the windows, he sees men on their knees with bags over their heads. Others are standing with nothing but a cloth on inside a cage. Some men are shaking, either out of fear or exhaustion. Busses arrive at a check point, in which British soldiers check all the passengers on board with dogs. The soldier yells at a man who clearly doesn’t speak English “Look up at me…Look up at me” then proceeds to violently hit the man with his nightstick then drag him off the bus. Upon leaving, he gets thrown to the ground and a bag gets placed over his head.

My question to you all is how much longer before this:


Turns into this.


The correlation between the policies of the President of the United States and those of the British government in Children of Men are glaring and disturbing.

Getting back to the movie itself, it really forces you to think. The question throughout the film is “why are women infertile?”. Alfonso Cuarón brilliantly hides this from you. No one knows in the film exactly why women are infertile either. Cuarón makes it so that instead of being a member of the audience, you are a citizen of this world. Confused and lost just like the citizens of the film. Throughout the movie there are subtle hints dropped, from wastelands of toxic waste,


to the pollution in the air


to cattle being piled up in the middle of farm fields burning to ashes.


Was it something in the air? Something in the water? You never really find out. You only have to guess. In a way, this can be considered a warning. Instead of pinpointing a specific reasoning, like The Day After Tomorrow (global warming) or San Andreas (massive earthquake). Cuarón makes you think that all of the issues are possibilities as to why woman can’t have children anymore. The fact is, all of the issues brought up in the film are issues we face in everyday life.  Whether the movie’s reality can become our reality is essentially up to us. Note: Another policy for the President was to pull funding from global environmental research. Could this also be in our near future?

As a film buff and former aspiring film maker, I always pay attention to the little things in movies. Things that generally can be missed by the untrained eye.  Very rarely do scenes strike me as did two scenes from Children of Men.

The first sequence was our main character Theo and 4 other characters on their way to a farm to protect one of the female passengers (a refugee named Kee) from the British Government.  The scene is about seven to eight minutes long, but it is done in one single cut from start to finish. Normally when you see a car sequence you will notice that one character talks on camera, and then the camera will turn to the other character to respond. That does not happen in this scene. Brilliantly, they have a camera that essentially floats in and out of the car. Even when a major plot piece happens the camera continues to float and focus on the action in and out of the car.  The scene is intense and is excellent overall though it isn’t my favorite.

The second sequence happens in the town of Bexhill. If you recall from above this is the town that Theo and the others have broken into. After one night in this refugee camp, the city itself is under a siege. A terrorist group known as the Fishes has broken in to grab Kee to bring her back so they can care for her. The British government has laid siege to the town, killing just about everyone without any regards for human life. This scene also runs around eight to nine minutes, but it finishes with one of the most powerful moments I have ever seen in a film. I won’t divulge the reason why but note that even while typing this it still gives me chills just thinking about it.

Overall, the imagery is fantastic with homages to various entities such as Pink Floyd’s excellent album Animals:

Including a quick almost unnoticed homage to the song Sheep:


I cannot stress how important this film is, and how important it is for everyone to see. Very rarely does a film with this type of message go unnoticed. After the shocking results of 2016 election, now is the most important time to view a film with the type of shocking imagery it has. Beyond that, Clive Owen is utterly brilliant, and though the action may not be 80’s movie status, it is still jolting and far more realistic at times than can be stomached. This will always be one of my favorite movies and one of the most important. There are many significant quotes in the movie, but as a father of two, the one that sticks out to me the most is from Miriam and how she describes what happened when things started to go wrong.

“I was thirty-one; midwife at the John Radcliffe. I was doing stinting at a naval clinic. Three of my patients miscarried in one week. Others were in their fifth and sixth months, I managed to save two of the poor babies. Next week five more miscarried, then the miscarriages started happening earlier. I remember booking a woman in for her next appointment noticing the page seven months ahead was completely blank not a single name. I rang a friend who was at Queen Charlottes and she had no new pregnancies either. She then rang her sister in Sydney. It was the same thing there….as the sound of the playgrounds faded the despair set in. Very odd what happens in the world without children’s voices.”-Miriam


Children of Men is rated R and can be found wherever movies are sold.


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