In the year 2027, the world is caving in. Rogue terrorists blow up buildings, anarchy runs rampant, and despondency and death fill the streets—all because for the past 19 years, women have mysteriously lost their ability to bear children. For mankind, there is little hope left, only the inevitable extinction of the human race. England has responded by closing its borders to all immigrants, hoping to maintain some stability as the end draws nearer.
Those who do attempt to breach the English border are herded into cages like animals and escorted to so-called refugee camps, (which are more like war zones) where the government simply stands by while immigrants butcher each other out of sheer desperation.
Kee (Hope Ashitey) is one of the lucky ones. A safe but confined immigrant from West Africa, Kee is in need of transit papers out of England in order to protect a miraculous but equally dangerous secret. Kee is pregnant, very pregnant. The Fishers, a rebel group that has been hiding Kee, is convinced the corrupted British government will take the baby, kill Kee, and flaunt the world’s last surviving blood line as British, not West African. The Fishers hatch a plan to smuggle Kee to the coast to meet a group that calls itself the Human Project, which supposedly is working on a cure for infertility and promises to keep mother and child safe.
Children of Men takes a truly gut-wrenching, though frequently depressing look into a dystopic society where hope has gone by the wayside and Earth is simply a shell of its former self. Complete infertility is not as radical a concept as it first appears to be, especially after director Alfonso Cuarón unveils his logic behind the premise. The result is a visually and emotionally exhilarating thrill ride through a futuristic society that proves to be one of the most provocative and original of its kind.
Cuarón has made a living with films that test the limit, that intellectually stimulate and provoke strong reactions on both sides, but the Mexican filmmaker has outdone himself on this one. The acting is phenomenal. The special effects are as real as ever. The entire presentation is such that the viewer cannot tear his eyes from the screen. Whether you agree or disagree with the ideology, it is a stunning piece of filmmaking.
The performances by Clive Owen and Hope Ashitey drive the movie, and while Julianne Moore only appears for a short stint, her impact is felt throughout. Owen is immediately convincing. Cuarón goes to great lengths to portray Owen’s character as just another lonely, depressed face in the crowd of a dying species. His compassion for Ashitey’s character and her miracle baby grows as the film moves on, and while the chemistry between the two is completely plutonic, it is very evident.
One of the most powerful aspects of Children is Cuarón’s use of subtle messages. Owen wears a sweatshirt with “London 2012” embroidered proudly across the front, symbolizing how far the city has fallen since hosting the largest sporting event in the world. Billboards display messages reading, “Avoiding fertility tests is a crime,” and “Suspicious? Report illegal immigrants!” But perhaps the most telling symbol of the disparity of the time is individually packaged suicide packs, which advertise with the catch-phrase “You decide when it’s time.” Coupled with a genuinely bleak setting and atmosphere, Children generates one of the most powerful moods in years.
The audience can forgive the filmmakers for numerous unanswered questions because of the sheer brilliance of the filmmaking. Children of Men works on nearly every level. It’s a story of self-discovery, a violent chase thriller, and a daring drama all at the same time. The result is a great film that stimulates the moviegoers’ minds with the daunting plausibility of the story. 4 ½ stars.