10 Years: “Children of Men”

When revisiting films, you sometimes have to be ready to be disappointed. There’s a reason you’ve avoided a film for so long, and with a new viewing, you may in fact find out what that is. Time will never help you nor will it hurt you. It’ll just bet there as a reminder of how long it took for you to realize a given film is not for you.

The Universal Pictures film “Children of Men”, is a bleak, fascinating and sad film, but is also terribly dull the majority of the time.

This drama stars Clive Own (“The Escape (Short 2016)”, “The Confirmation”), Julianne Moore (“Difficult People”, “Inside Amy Schumer”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange”, “Triple 9”), Charlie Hunnam (upcoming “The Lost City of Z”, “Crimson Peak”), Clare-Hope Ashitey (“I.T.”, “Suspects”), Pam Ferris (“Call the Midwife”, “Ethel & Ernest”), Danny Huston (“Paranoid”, “Frankenstein”), Peter Mullan (“Quarry”, “Tommy’s Honour”), and Michael Caine (upcoming “Going in Style”, “Now You See Me 2”).

The film was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Believe”, “Gravity”) and written by Cuarón (“Believe”, “Gravity”), Timothy Sexton (“Chicago P.D”, “The Lottery”), David Arata (“Spy Game”, “Brokedown Palace”), Mark Ferguson (“The Expanse”, “Cowboys & Aliens”), and Hawk Ostby (“The Expanse”, “Cowboys & Aliens”). It is based on the book by P.D. James.

The film originally opened on Dec. 25, 2006 in a limited run before going wide on Jan. 5, 2007. It would go on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, three BAFTA Awards, winning two, and three Saturn Awards, winning one among numerous nominations and wins.

I actually went into this film fully aware that I didn’t care for this film originally. That for whatever reason, I’d allowed it to sit on one shelf or the floor, or some other space gathering dust, because it didn’t truly leave an impression on me. I was hopeful. Perhaps I’d misjudged the film. With my viewing habits and approach to films drastically different than 10 years ago, I was ready to be amazed. I guess it doesn’t help either that several news articles have been talking about this film, and made it seem like a much bigger deal than I’d originally made it out to be. Whatever it ultimately was, at least I was right. This film isn’t fully for me. It’ll just be a film I saw and can appreciate on some level.

For a film that has so many great things working in its favor, including director Cuarón, I’m not able to get past how little I seem to take away. No impression was really left. I wasn’t wow’d or something else of that nature. I was just a viewer. A casual viewer. This may as well have been playing in the background for all the good it did me. I wish I could fully say that my lack of response to this film was because of the really bleak atmosphere, that somehow it seeped from the television and was absorbed by my body, but it’s not. Yes, the film is bleak and I can see that, but that’s part of where this film succeeds and makes it fascinating to watch. I also wish I could blame the film’s somewhat dull pacing. Yes, it was slow enough for me to feel a bit bored, but because of the film’s story and every aspect used to bring that world to life, I never truly lost interest and wished it was all over. So, that being the case, why can’t I enjoy this film a bit more? Why am I once again regretting owning this? With this being, most likely, only the second time around, how come I’m not responding differently?

Making these questions even harder to answer, is the fact that I love what was done to bring this film to life. There’s the overall world building. It’s so thought out. There’s so much detail and most of it’s depressing. In some ways, it’s hard to see and take in, as it should be. Details aren’t just kept up front and on full display, but if you look behind and all around, you’ll see so much that tells you everything you need to know about how the world ended up where it is. There’s so much chaos. So many strict rules and regulations. It’s not hard to feel something as this is such an immersive world. I’d say, that if this film didn’t have this approach utilized, I probably would’ve been bored. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to invest so much time observing every facet of this world and seeing what I could learn.

There’s the deep focus on character. Thus, it’s a character driven film. Sure there are action sequences, which may lack in having some massive scope, but make up for it with intensity. There’s danger everywhere. Having such a detailed focus on characters, even ones who don’t last the whole film, is what allows for this feeling of danger to permeate. You can do more than just feel for them. You deeply care. With strong performances allowing for these characters to shine in a dark, dark world, you also get a good idea of who they are to each other and what they stand for. What makes getting up and living in this world worth it. Through organic conversation I learned everything I needed about Owen and Moore, and through seeing the strong bond between Ashitey and Ferris, I saw so much more than any exposition could’ve ever given me. I can’t say that any of these characters will ever stand out in my mind, but in the moment, whilst watching, all I want to do is see them succeed and live as a happy a life as possible. It’s all I can truly hope for from a film that doesn’t seem to overly excite me.

Speaking of hope. There’s a lot of it referenced in this film, along with a few other noticeable themes. It’s evident, so at least you don’t have to go searching for it as if it were a hidden message. It’s also necessary for this film’s story to work. The people in this fucked up world need something to cling to. This is what gets them through, even if it’s just to the next day. I was certainly amazed by how prevalent this theme was, even when not stated by words or outright in some way. The one time I was blown away, which I didn’t think was possible, was when it was on display for all too see. Literally. Own and Ahitey are leaving a war torn building, with her now delivered baby, and it’s crying. Everyone can now hear and see it, and instead of being focused on avoiding flying bullets and explosions, they’re stopping to stare and touch the child. Seeing as there hasn’t been a baby in almost 20 years, this is an appropriate response. It’s also quite powerful. Perhaps the world can turn around and get better. Even the ending reflects this idea. Without giving you a straight answer, Cuarón and his fellow writers do give you one last glimmer of hope. For a film that’s full of despair and a lot of death, there couldn’t be a better way to end.

As much as I can appreciate and even love aspects of a film, it doesn’t mean I’ll be completely over the moon for it. I gave it a shot and I learned something too. It’s more than some film’s can achieve. With this film now having turned 10, it’s interesting to see what it means in today’s world. It seem to mean so much more. As far as a lesson, even an unexpected or unintended one, it’s not a bad one to sit through. What will it mean in another decade?


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