Review: Children of Men, or how would you feel about the end of the world?


I’ve just finished watching a movie called Children of Men on HBO (yes, I participate in all the sins of this century, HBO, AOL, Microsoft Office, mea culpa). It stars Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, among others, and is based loosely (very loosely, IMO) on the novel by P.D. James, not her usual since she’s best known as a mystery writer, and this is definitely in the realm of science or “speculative” fiction.

The basic story is this: for some unexplained reason, the women of the world have become infertile, and no children have been born for eighteen years (in the book, it was the men who were infertile). A woman gets pregnant, the usual way of course because we’re not talking supernatural miracles here, only ordinary natural ones, and the protagonist Theo is tapped to get her out of the country (still England in both book and movie, the last “functioning” society, although it doesn’t very well) to a supposed sanctuary called “The Human Project”. Of course Theo has lots of baggage and doesn’t want to do it, but he signs on when he realizes what’s at stake. There’s war and repression, escape and betrayal, noble self-sacrifice (lots of that), complete self-interest, and an ending that is meant to be ambiguous, but isn’t depending on your point of view. Alfonso Cuarón , co-writer of the screenplay, and director, had this to say:

“We wanted the end to be a glimpse of a possibility of hope, for the audience to invest their own sense of hope into that ending. So if you’re a hopeful person you’ll see a lot of hope, and if you’re a bleak person you’ll see a complete hopelessness at the end.”

The book was called a “Christian fable” by James herself, and concerned itself with the end of humanity, and what might happen if a woman got pregnant, thus providing hope that humanity might not end after all. But Cuarón crams all kinds of contemporary PC imagery and references into it. For instance, the mother is an African woman (who wasn’t even in the book); the government has collapsed into a dictatorship bent on deporting all immigrants, and torturing and murdering those who won’t go, and those non-immigrants who dissent; there are pointed scenes illustrating the damage to the environment by pollution; casual drug use and homosexuality are given their usual approving nod (not that I object to homosexuals, but I’m really tired of the entertainment industry hammering it home in movie after movie); the detention scenes are meant to recall the Holocaust; and the war scenes remind of nothing so much as the seige of Sarajevo. There are many other visual and verbal references, some I’ve forgotten, and some I haven’t figured out quite.

Despite all that, it’s a well-written and well-paced movie, and the acting is superb. Taken on its face, I watched spellbound, and would recommend it to anyone who isn’t squeamish and enjoys war/action movies.

Which brings me to the point of all this: If my grandchildren, God forbid, all died, I think my stake in humanity would be over. There would be nothing left to feel or do, which was an underlying theme in the movie. Some might consider that they have more to contribute than just progeny, and that’s certainly true. I’m not one of those who believe that your life is “unfulfilled” if you never have children, and I wouldn’t urge procreation on everyone, because it’s a dirty, sometimes heartbreaking, job that you can, if you aren’t careful, screw up tragically. But my children and grandchildren are the latest in a long, long line of survivors of everything that has tried to wipe out mankind. If they were gone, I feel in my heart my own personal reason for being would have been wasted. I’m not a great artist, or scientist, or teacher. When I go, few outside my family will notice my passing. Beyond any inadvertent inspiration I might have given by word or deed, I’ve already made the most important contribution I can make to the future of mankind. And I’m okay with that.

So, since I saw hope at the end of the movie, I must be one of those hopeful people. That’s kind of comforting.

12 Responses to “Review: Children of Men, or how would you feel about the end of the world?”

  1. tizona Says:

    When I go, few outside my family will notice my passing

    Would not go that far, dear Rebecca. With that fright that you endured, not long ago you had several continent’s on this earth, left with a feeling of great loss.

    Beyond any inadvertent inspiration I might have given by word or deed, I’ve already made the most important contribution I can make to the future of mankind

    Do understand what you are saying, but the most important, is that you are on this orb, still making contributions, just by being.

  2. Dminor Says:

    Still not sure whether to rent this movie or not, but at least I now know why I’m not sure.

    RebeccaH, you have already, aside from having children, made so many contributions to the future of mankind it would be impossible to list. Every constructive word and deed you’ve done which has managed to percolate itself into the life of someone else has contributed in some small but accumulative way to advancing the kind of thought processes essential for this particular species to flourish – or even survive. I’ll disagree with tizona in that I don’t think “just by being” is enough. But don’t worry, from all your writings, I’m confident that both of you appear on the positive side of the Ledger.

    (Hey, you started the Philosophy 101 thread here, not me).

  3. Rebecca H Says:

    Thanks for the kind remarks, and please excuse the unintended self-pitying tone of the above post. I do not feel sorry for myself, because my health issues aren’t nearly so dire as some, and that’s an indulgence people with health issues can’t afford anyway. I’ve had a good many years to enjoy my life (but not yet enough years, thank you very much) and hope to go on enjoying them and annoying people for some time to come.

    Dminor, I liked the movie overall, but it depends on your taste in movies.

  4. saltydog Says:

    Thank you for the critique. You do a good job. I’m lousy at this sort of thing. :~(

    Personally, I hopeful enough that I’m sick to death of all of the apocalyptic themes. Between those and the horror movies, one begins to wonder why anyone bothers to get up in the morning. It is as though people are living with a sword of Damocles hanging over them. The world is full of dangers, as it has always been, but this pessimism does nothing but feed a foregone conclusion. It is based on a view of man as essentially evil, a view which I do not believe. It is a Hobbesian view of man as an unreasonable, animalistic creature, with self-interest defined as a brutish, unthinking kind of hedonistic activity that looks no further than the next few moments. Hobbesian man thinks nothing of crawling over others to gain whatever comes to his animal mind. Of course, since man is this brute, he must be controlled by others who have denied their natural inclinations to sacrifice others to self by sacrificing themselves to others. This is the basis for all collectivist, and mystic, ideologies. It is a false alternative, and a view of man that I do not adhere to. If man were truly this brute, he would not have even made it to the caves.

    Long live Lady Liberty!

    saltydog

  5. saltydog Says:

    Dminor, how’s that for philosophy 101?

  6. tizona Says:

    DAMN YOU, Salty….Will ya just damn sign up on WordPress, AND get you butt, over here, huh?!

    Jesus, talk about a hardhead.

  7. kaez Says:

    Hey, Tiz, I thought she (salty) was a redhead?

    I watched the movie while my mum was visiting.

    I felt I’d wasted the time.

    Same old baddies, same old doublecross.
    The place looked like a huge slum.
    Hey, lots of women in hijabs…
    How about that?

  8. Dminor Says:

    testing my italics here because tizona has no preview and I’m hopeless.

  9. Dminor Says:

    testing my here because no one can see me…d’oh!

  10. tizona Says:

    Do NOT give up, Dminor. You are doing fine, my friend and good Doctor.

  11. tizona Says:

    Do NOT give up, Dminor. You are doing fine, my friend and good Doctor.

  12. spot_the_dog Says:

    He he. Can’t hide from the RSS comment feed!

    Hey, you could always cheat and download an HTML/BBcode/Wiki formatting toolbar from here. (But only for Firefox)


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