A REVIEW BY GARY CHEW
I've always felt that the most beautiful sound in the world is the laughter of children at play. However, after seeing Alfonso Cuarón's new film, "Children of Men," that's changed. Now, it's guns...falling silent in the wake of the sound of a crying infant. (Keep that thought in the back of your mind as you read on.)
Clive Owen ("Closer") plays Theo. He's a burnt-out case of an English bureaucrat---not unlike someone thought up for a Graham Greene novel. He's in London. The year is 2027. Inexplicably, no one has been born on earth for nearly 19 years, and the world's youngest person (a bit over 18 years) has just died in a bar brawl in the Western Hemisphere.
Theo has never recovered from accidentally running over and killing his infant daughter years earlier. It was the precipitating factor for his wife divorcing him. He carries a small bottle of whiskey in his coat and still smokes those damned cigarettes.
Surrounding Theo, things are much worse. Due to the worldwide infertility epidemic, civilization is biding its time; looking into the darkened muzzle of extinction; slipping into hopelessness and chaos. But life is not as bad in the less uncivilized United Kingdom. There the populace is subjected only to British neo-fascism, immigration unrest and terrorism.
As "Children of Men" opens, Theo has just left a central London shop which explodes from a terrorist bomb. It's a good day for him. He's unscathed but, as everyone else not dead or injured in the blast, deeply wounded---emotionally.
At this point it strikes me: why would such a film open at Christmastime? I think because "Children of Men" is a nativity story turned inside-out. There is a young, pregnant woman seeking sanctuary from a dystopian world to give birth and safety to her daughter. And there is a non-biological "father," who exemplifies what being a husband is all about. Theo is that husband: seeking atonement for the accidental killing of his own daughter; and in the act, finds himself the champion of the very survival of civilization.
Director Cuarón ("Y tu mamá también") has also given us what Governor Schwarzenegger would call, "good action," or a truly action-packed film. In fact, the action and the camera techniques used to shoot much of it are more impressive than how the story is put across to the moviegoer. The picture is difficult to follow and understand in places; some of it because I wasn't able to hear through the accents, and more so: the script is not as informative as it ought to be.
Julianne Moore and Michael Caine have roles that are just a cut above cameos. Moore---as a guerrilla activist---is not the feminine lead, and Caine makes some hay with his part as a futuristic, long-haired hippie and former political cartoonist. He has eschewed all the madness of the day and lives, covertly, with his catatonic wife (it's been too much for her) in a warm, funky, old home sequestered in a thick forest where the fascists and terrorists won't find them---for a while.
Claire-Hope Ashitey ("Shooting Dogs") is cast as the Virgin Mary figure. Her name is Kee, but since little characterization is put into the script---except for Owen and a bit for Moore and Caine---drawing a finer bead on who Kee might be isn't easy, despite her significance.
It's not like we haven't been warned before----from the likes of Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury and the rest of those literate prognosticators of deceit and drear. P.D. James wrote the novel, "The Children of Men." It's fresh from 1993 publication. Graham Greene was one of her influences.
For the serious moviegoer, I suggest a double-shot of new cinema at Christmastime: "The Nativity Story" and "Children of Men." Although each is very different from the other, both evince awe and genuine reverence with the birth of a solitary child and, even if for only a moment, displace violence and despair with peace and hope.
I wonder what Christmas will be like in the U.S. in 2027.
Coming soon to Tulsa theatres;
Showtimes will be at Yahoo Movies-Tulsa.
Gary Chew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.