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Movie of the Day: Children of Men

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What Is It?

In a not so distant future, childbirth has become a thing of the past. Theo (Clive Owen), a cynical bureaucrat, is abducted by a radical immigrants’ rights organization led by his ex-girlfriend (Julian Moore) who hopes to persuade him to obtain transit papers for a woman named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey). Yet Theo soon discovers that Kee is no ordinary refugee, but may in fact hold the future of the human race.

What’s Cool About It?

Dystopian sci-fi thrillers have come in all shapes and sizes over the past decade – given the state of global politics, we shouldn’t expect this trend to die out – but Children of Men remains perhaps the most realistic and visceral vision of a possible future. Dealing with issues of environmental degradation and the free movement of people across national borders, Alfonso Cuaron’s movie is arguably more relevant today than on its release. This film still resonates because it focuses on the human side of a future marred by the failures of technological progress. Cuaron also embedded one of the most memorable and shocking single shot action sequences in the middle of the film, a daring decision for a story that’s more preoccupied with political activism and emotional reflection upon life’s disappointments.

This Is the Same Dude Who Directed a Harry Potter Movie, Right?

Not counting his short segment in Paris, Je T’aime, Cuaron made this film right after he directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Can you spot the cinematic and stylistic similarities between the two films? While Cuaron is credited with modernizing the Harry Potter franchise into a more adult and “realistic” film series, Children of Men marks a fairly distinct contrast in tone and subject matter. Indeed, what’s interesting about Cuaron’s movies is how diverse they are from one another. He directed a faithful adaptation of the classic children’s novel A Little Princess and an unfaithful contemporary adaptation of Great Expectations in the 1990’s, then followed those up with the sexually graphic coming of age story Y Tu Mama Tambien set in his native Mexico. Gravity, the next film he made after Children of Men, was also a “realistic” entry into the science fiction genre that somehow feels millions of miles away from the grittiness of the infertile future of this film. Yet looking closer at Children of Men in contrast with his other work, there are themes of death, loss and human perseverance that recur in different and imaginative ways… yes, even in the Harry Potter movie too.

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