Culture > Movies

Dark age

Movies | Gloomy film has pro-life theme

Issue: "Endings & beginnings," Jan. 13, 2007

With its slate skies and urban decay, Children of Men (rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use, and brief nudity) etches a picture of human despair. And it asks, what is the point of living?

The reason for the question is a world crisis: It's 2027 in London and infertility has gripped mankind. The youngest man-"Baby Diego"-dies in a brawl at 18 years, 5 months, and 11 days. A celebrity purely for his youth, his death inspires much grief, a reminder that the whole human race will soon follow.

In the midst of this, a young African woman, Kee, (Claire-Hope Ashitey) mysteriously turns up pregnant. Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is the middle-aged bureaucrat who must whisk her to safety from an Orwellian state and baying rebel groups.

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The film is based on P.D. James' 1992 novel, and it runs adrift while glossing over her nuances. In the movie, for example, Britain is simply nativist, routinely killing and deporting illegal immigrants. But a country with a declining population would need more, not fewer, hands. The novel's Britain welcomes young immigrants for dirty manual labor and then deports them at age 60. The elderly also suffer mass euthanasia in the novel through "Quietus"; in the film, "Quietus" is a gentle suicide drug that allows people to choose when to die.

Though the point of life seems to be life itself-perpetuating the human race-Children of Men does carry important messages. In a Nativity-like scene, Kee climbs stairs in a dilapidated building to give birth in a bare room: Here is a pro-life meditation on the value of children. In today's world, with declining populations in Europe and Japan causing real worries, it's a picture worth remembering.


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