After years of being badgered by a work colleague, this past weekend I finally sat down and watched Children of Men. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron’s film set in an infertile future. The world has seen no new-born humans for 18 years, until now, and Clive Owen’s character has the task of escorting the pregnant woman to safety.
That is a very basic summary of this film, one which doesn’t touch upon the themes and messages the movie tries to deliver. Children of Men felt like a very arty film made on a small budget. The cinematography is brilliant, with a lot of long, uninterrupted shots lasting minutes at a time. The technical aspect of this film is probably the part I appreciated most about it. There is one scene in particular, a 12 minute incredible one shot scene, where the camerawork, set design and every side actor’s performance is perfect.
In a film that could border on pretentious with its messages of hope in a dying world, Clive Owen’s performance keeps this film very grounded. His reluctance to become the heroic character you expect in these kind of gritty Sci-Fi films is a little disarming at first. He is not an ex army man, he isn’t a fighter and at no point does he pick up a gun and become Rambo. He is just a man who finds himself in a situation where it’s up to him to do the right thing. At first he is in it for himself and doing his job, but by the end of the film he is there because he believes it’s the right thing to do.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore all pop up with terrific cameo roles, Ejiofor probably the most used of the three talents. I hope Michael Caine was paid handsomely as he has to wear maybe the worst wig in history. Clara Hope Ashitey, who I have not seen in anything else, gives a really solid performance as Kee. I did find myself caring about the outcome of the story thanks to her and Clive Owen’s dynamic, Something I didn’t think would happen a third way into the movie.
At the start of the film I couldn’t buy into the story or characters much. I am not really sure why, but the only reason I could think of is the very odd style of camera work chosen for this film. There are no fourth wall breaks, nobody ever looks into the camera, yet it is mostly shot at eye level, on a moving, shaky camera. This documentary style works for the film a lot of the time, but at first I felt like I was missing something. This style does give you the feeling of being in the world, which is great, but with every jump and step felt in the lens, I feel like there was an unacknowledged presence in every scene, that of the cameraman who has been following them around.
It is a very odd thing to talk about, as I did find the style useful especially in the car chase and the one shot scenes. I think it does take some adjusting though, perhaps because i have watch the entirety of the US Office in the last few months, and that has the same documentary camera style. So to see that in a arty, serious drama, threw me off a little.
Children of Men is a great piece of art, showcasing some of the best skills in the industry and getting me excited to watch Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, which is on Netflix now and looks to be just as arty. It is a bit of a tough watch if you’re looking for something easy to put on and shut off from the world. If you engage with it and let yourself be immersed in the world, you will have a great experience, if not a particularly uplifting one.
Good – Production Design, futuristic but believable world, Cinematography, Story and Performances all combine for a very good film.
Bad – Not one for the faint hearted, and the odd camera choice may feel a little odd for some.
9/10 – Alright Tom, you was right, Children of Men is a great film.