Alfonso Cuaron, much before he created a gripping adventure in outer space Gravity, had directed a much underrated science fiction titled Children of Men. I had watched this movie when I was in college and I guess I might not have appreciated the beauty of that work as I was sleepwalking through semester exams. Until recently, when I happened to see it again as a result of an ineluctable revival of the film online as lot many spoke about how relevant that movie is in today’s time. The impact of the movie this time on me has been much harder. Children of Men, is by far one of most frightful view of future I have seen on screen. It is frightful, because it is so close to real.
It is 2027, and it has been eighteen years since the last human child was born. Women are unable to conceive and the society, as we know it, is crumbling as humanity faces extinction. The world has collapsed and Britain, as we see on TV in the movie, is the only stable government that ‘marches on’. Being the last functional government in the world, the country is plagued by a refugee crisis. The government, as a result, is a police state and has shut down its borders, simultaneously coming down heavily on illegal immigrants, throwing them into refugee camps much similar to concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The movie begins with our protagonist Theo, getting a coffee while the news of the murder of the youngest person in the world, an 18 year old boy, is being reported in the TV news. As soon as Theo exits the shop, a bomb goes off in the very same coffee shop and we know we are in a grim, chaotic world with no escape.
Theo, an ex-activist, now a hopeless prole, is thrown into midst of chaos when his ex-wife, Julianne, asks him help her, in lieu for some cash, to get transit papers for an African woman, Key, so that she may reach the coasts. Julianne is revealed to be the leader of an Immigrant’s Rights Group called The Fishes. Theo helps her get the transit papers for Key from his cousin, a minister, but would need to accompany her as papers require that bearer must be accompanied. Julianne is soon killed in a terrific action sequence when their car is ambushed by an armed gang. Key reveals to Theo that she is pregnant and Julianne was transporting her to a secretive organization ‘The Human Project’ which aims to find cure for the infertility that has plagued the world. They have promised to take Key into their protection only if she can reach the coast. With Julianne’s death ‘The Fishes’ launch an offensive and claims that they need the kid for their cause. Key is a miracle that whole world has been waiting for and Theo realizes the stakes are high. Theo, now armed with a new objective, need to get Key to the coast via a refugee camp Bexhill which is easiest way to the coast with the help of an accompanying midwife, Miriam, and his pot-smoking jolly friend, Jasper.
Theo transports Key through an unsympathetic brutal world and finally to Bexhill, which is a living nightmare. The immigrants live in pathetic conditions, treated horribly as a result value of life here is cheap. The Fishes bursts out against the army commencing a full-fledged uprising. In such a ravaged neighborhood and turbulent situation, Key gives birth to a girl child. Theo finally gets Key and the baby to the coast and succumbs to his injuries, as the boat of ‘Human Project’ team is seen arriving in the horizon.
Environmental degradation as an effects of Global Capitalism and our apathy towards it, are shown in the background as Theo transports Key through the barren landscapes. Factories in distance spewing polluted air into the atmosphere, whole countryside being one big dumping ground and deteriorating cities eerily reminds me of present day Ghaziabad. While watching the war torn Bexhill, as the Fishes collide with the army, I could only imagine, what would have been happening in countries like Libya and Syria. The cages and the camps, where refugees are shepherded in, the allahu-akbar chants in the climactic scene, the hardliner against the refugees by the authoritarian government; all resemble the present day refugee crisis in the World and recent American policies against the migrants. The realism of the world freaks me out. This is a plausible future. No, this is almost the future.
The movie is emblazoned with symbolism and there is so much, so much happening in the background, which I guess the YouTube channel nerdwriter has dissected brilliantly. I am no movie critic, but I can’t help but profess how the urgency of the situation and immediacy of the war is hammered onto us through a style of film-making where we feel that it is not a science fiction that we are watching but an actual documentary. The director unfolds an apocalypse on the screen and we are not only visualizing it, we are in it. This movie clearly rose among my favorites of all times after the re-watch.
In a scene, Miriam, tells Theo it is very odd what happens in a world without children’s voices. The very thought of it becomes scary. I wonder, if the hope that our future will be better is the only thing that keeps us going. And then, if we realize that there is going to be no future, nothing to look forward to, will we still continue with our same life? Or will we, as a sense of hopelessness sinks in, succumb to a violent transformation in the face of extinction?
I would highly recommend everyone to watch this artwork and if you have already done so once, watch it again.
Checkout the trailer