Children of Men (2006)

August 14, 2008 § Leave a comment

Children of Men is among the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen, mainly for the lack of faith and compassion pervading it.  There are always people around scoffing at the idea of religious faith, but I think the reality is that religious or otherwise people need some kind of faith (in goodness, in humanity, in art or society) to carry on, or at least to carry on humanely, happily, productively.

Children of Men is set in the near future, and though technically science-fiction it doesn’t feel like it in a heavy-handed way, any more than a film adaptation of 1984 would feel like it.   It’s a portrayal of a future where an eighteen year old is a celebrity simply for being the youngest person alive.  People have lost the ability to reproduce, leading to a gradual, increasing despair. Wisely, it’s never explained exactly how this happened, but the film witnesses a society soldiering on with the certain knowledge the end is near, meaning whatever you believe it, it’s coming to a close — there’s just one small, obscure hope that our central character stumbles across. It’s a grim scenario, and a flawlessly made, gripping film.  It works as a suspense film, as commentary, as drama too.  The acting and writing are also solid, with good performances from Clive Owen and Michael Caine as an elderly hippie.  The Michael Caine character is a complete relic himself, still trying to carve out and define a corner of the world according to his beliefs despite being nearly dead (and, at one point, the Owen character actually believes him to be dead when he’s asleep).

It’s possible to watch this relentlessly grim film and ask this question: what’s the point? And I have to admit, I’d have a hard time with the film if all this was for little purpose, but I think the portrayal of a world stripped of faith reminds us that it hasn’t gotten this bad yet, that there are still things worth fighting for. In a world where global warming, climate change, a lack of conservation and sustainable development all threaten to leave us impoverished, that certainly hits home, doesn’t it?

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