A Compelling Near-Future Drama
It's November 16, 2027, and the world is saddened by the loss of 18-year-old international celebrity Baby Diego, stabbed to death outside a bar in Buenos Aires after he refused to sign an autograph. His claim to fame: he was the youngest person on Earth. Women have become infertile, and no human baby has been born since 2009. This is the setup for Children of Men (2006), which was directed by the talented Alfonso Cuarón (The Little Princess, Y tu mamá también, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
Children of Men creates an unforgettable vision of things as they might become. The film is disturbing because its fictional world is all too recognizable as a possible projection of the real world we're living in today. Evocative cinematography and production design add credibility to the movie's depiction of a dystopian near future. The story takes place in Britain, where the government must deal with terrorists, rebels and refugees. In trying to cope with the situation, the nation has turned into a police state.
Clive Owen gives a memorable performance as the central character in the film. The movie's second-most important role is well-played by young actress Claire-Hope Ashitey. Top-notch supporting work is done by Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine.
A Dreadful, but Fascinating World
In terms of narrative structure, Children of Men is a hero's journey. Low-level bureaucrat Theo Faron (Owen) is brought into contact with a pregnant illegal immigrant (Ashitey), and he takes on the mission of trying to get her to safety. Since her child will be the first human baby born in 18 years, the tale has resonance as a nativity story. But it's the world that Faron moves through that keeps us enthralled.
Outside Britain, civilization is in a state of collapse. A television reporter announces, "Day one thousand of the siege of Seattle," and the news runs footage of extensive destruction in major cities around the globe. An old newspaper on a wall reads, "Africa Devastated by Nuclear Fallout: Millions of People Died in Seconds."
Refugees have streamed into Britain, and the government has established a massive program to get rid of them. Citizens are constantly reminded, "To hire, feed or shelter illegal immigrants is a crime." Also, the government supplies citizens with suicide kits under the name Quietus, which is pitched in public service announcements with the slogan, "You decide when."
We also meet a catatonic woman, and if we watch carefully, we see on the wall an old newspaper that features her picture with the accompanying headline, "MI6 Deny Involvement in Torture of Photojournalist."
A Provocative Documentary
The most interesting extra on the Children of Men DVD is "The Possibility of Hope," a 27-minute documentary conceived, written and produced by Alfonso Cuarón. This consists of seven intellectuals being separately interviewed about present-day trends that can be seen as giving rise to a world like the dreadful one depicted in the feature film.
Some of the interviewees blame many of our woes on the inequality of economic opportunities and global capitalism. Others worry about the difficulties of dealing with migrations and the acceleration of contact between dissimilar cultures. One frets about technology giving so much power to isolated individuals. Another opines that "democracy in our time is not focused on justice, equality, unconditional participation of everybody in public life." And some interviewees foresee a future where climate change will create a flood of environmental refugees.
The intellectuals do a much better job of spotlighting problems than they do in suggesting solutions or offering hope. Still, their observations are worth paying attention to because they make a persuasive case that it is in our own self-interest to think less tribally and more globally.
Featurettes and Deleted Scenes
The DVD contains five featurettes with a combined total running time of half an hour. All are worth watching.
The most intellectually stimulating is the six-minute freewheeling commentary on the feature film by social theorist Slavoj Zizek. The eight-minute "Under Attack" shows how the movie's car attack and café explosion sequences were done. "Future Designs" consists of eight minutes on the production design and look of the film. Clive Owen and Julianne Moore discuss their characters in the five-minute "Theo and Julian." And there's a three-minute featurette on the visual effects used in creating the movie's lifelike baby.
Also, three short deleted scenes are provided on the DVD. The most interesting is where Faron and his cousin look at and talk about a Rembrandt self-portrait that has been rescued from some unspecified disaster in New York and brought to the Ark of the Arts in London.
Below I've listed the details for the Children of Men DVD.
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1), Color
Feature Film Run Time: 1 Hour 49 Minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language, Some Drug Use and Brief Nudity
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
French 5.1 Dolby Digital
English Captions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Deleted Scenes (2 min. 20 sec.)
The Possibility of Hope (27 min.)
Children of Men Comments by Slavoj Zizek (6 min.)
Under Attack (8 min.)
Theo & Julian (5 min.)
Futuristic Design (8 min.)
Visual Effects: Creating the Baby (3 min.)