Tuesday, December 19, 2006

MovieWatch: "Children of Men"

"Children of Men"
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 87
In a Nutshell: I've got a plane to catch, so this is going to be ultra-brief. Think "Casablanca" meets "The Nativity Story" as written by Philip K. Dick and directed by some unholy spawn of early Stanley Kubrick and Emir Kusturica. If "Pan's Labyrinth" remains the year's signature piece of pure storytelling, "Children of Men" is the year's best piece of feature filmmaking. Some people will complain that it's heavy-handed and they won't necessarily be wrong. It's a fable about hope and government oppression. There'd be no point in it being subtle. The film's first half -- establishing the world of 2027 in which all women have become infertile and humanity is on the verge of collapse -- is very fine, but the second half -- set mostly in a remote Refugee Camp -- is mind-blowing. Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have constructed shots of unbearable suspense and stark beauty and Clive Owen is just asked to hold the frame and be a leading man, which he is. The soundtrack -- lots of '60s remakes and originals and a Jarvis Cocker credit song that would make a great Oscar night performance -- is killer and the performances around Owen are strong as well. I imagine that "Children of Men" will be tucked in after "Pan's Labyrinth" on my Top 10. It's a meaty piece of cinema and I look forward to seeing it again.


  1. Anonymous2:19 PM

    i also really enjoyed this film. definitely one of the best of the year. the art direction, color palette and overall visual style (incl. cinematog. and editing) are superb. clive owen holds the frame, and then some. actually, the entire cast deserves kudos.

    however, i'm still a teensy bit uncomfortable about the (as you say) heavy-handed fable of hope vs. state oppression being written on and redeemed by a woman's body, through her reproductive system. seems like kind of an old (pernicious) trope that goes right back to "the nativity story" (again, you mention this), but also the myth of pandora just to name two of the most well known. all of these have a sneaky patriarchal subtext of, at once, exalting women for their ability to (help men) "cheat death" and also relegating them to the role of mother / breeder.

    i know this would have been a different movie, but what if kee were the exceptional woman able to conceive a child and not miscarry, but was so freaked out by the prospect of pregnancy and birthing (no one's had a kid in 18 years, according to the narrative, so she may well be), that she's desperate to get it out of her, like a parasitic tumor? that would, of course, set up another line of tension (as if running from gov't & the fishers weren't already enough), but it also might be more in line with some of the very strong soc.-pol. and environmental themes of the film. that is, OK, we take human reproduction for granted right now, but in the downward death spiral we're in at the start of the 21st cent. from a sustainable use of resources / global warming perspective, i for one am far more concerned with over-population as a realistic ticking time bomb rather than with female infertility. just a thought.

    also, it seems like it's the men who are actually going to be the one's to throw a wrench in the whole sexual reprod. scheme.

  2. Anonymous2:23 PM

    sorry, the line wrap messed up that URL:


  3. Anonymous2:30 PM

    When my colleagues and I put together a "master list" of favorites for The A.V. Club, Children Of Men was far and away the consensus #1, but it's received a mysterious lack of attention from critics and year-end prognosticators so far. It's especially mysterious because the film is undeniably bold on a technical and thematic level; one might find it a heavy-handed assortment of hot-button issues, but surely the film is estimable enough to warrant discussion, right?

    In any case, a truly great film. I haven't seen so many how-did-they-do-that shots since I Am Cuba, though it should be said that they function to intensify the film's visceral impact, not just show off Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski's estimable chops. I hope people get an opportunity to see it, but it seems to me that Universal is intent on burying the film.

  4. Anonymous3:03 PM

    I left the theater looking around and thinking to myself, "Wow, life is one long continuous tracking shot, just like CHILDREN OF MEN."