There’s something odd about a film that you can skip 20 minutes of at a time, and yet still take away exactly the same type of experience. That’s where I’m sitting at with Children of Men. I originally watched this film in an English class, skipping through many parts, and only watching about 30 minutes of the actual film. Now that I’ve gotten the chance to see the entire film, I can’t say that there was much point to it.
That’s not to say that the film is terrible, in fact, far from it. It just doesn’t really require a proper viewing, and if you were to cut out parts of the story that don’t really improve the overall story of the film, you would be left with something resembling a 30-40 minute film. A really well-shot, decently acted 30-40 minute film, but that’s still what it would be. There isn’t much reason to have made Children of Men a full length film, as it just doesn’t need that kind of running time to make its impact.
The story takes place in the future. The women of the planet have become infertile, which somehow manages to make the world fall into complete chaos. Britain is the only place left on Earth that managed to stay as a decent place to live, and as such, immigration has become a problem. The film revolves around Theo Faron (Clive Owen), who gets convinced to help women (Claire-Hope Ashitey) find safe transit out of London. It turns out that this women is pregnant, the first pregnant women in 18 years. A group of people want to use this child as a signal of hope to rally the people. Here lies the main problem the film has.
The story doesn’t require long to tell at all. There are many events that occur that don’t end up meaning anything by the end, with some characters coming and going without much purpose. It was especially disappointing to see Michael Caine’s character show up, disappear for a large amount of time, then reappear only to disappear again quickly after. It’s especially sad when his character is not only one of the more important supporting characters, one of an aging hippie, but also the most interesting character in the film.
There is also a problem with the premise itself. The still-unborn child is supposed to represent hope. Things can improve, preaches the film. That doesn’t make any sense. One pregnant woman doesn’t symbolize hope for the entire planet! All it does is say that there might be a slight chance that the unexplained infertility crisis may be over. The rest of the planet is still in ruins. We are shown this near the beginning. Nowhere else is really even livable anymore. Even if this birth-to-be means that the human race is coming out of this problem, there are still far too many other ones we would have to deal with. Riots, overpopulation, resource depletion, and not to mention the inevitable global warming that comes from many of these things.
What’s most surprising about this film is the fact that the superfluous parts that could easily be cut out manage to still be interesting. They’re unnecessary, sure, but that doesn’t necessarily render them useless. There are times in which the story can really draw you in, and while it these plot points make no impact on the final result of the film, they manage to entertain, if nothing else.
The best thing that Children of Men has going for it is its cinematography. Unlike many science fiction films, the special effects don’t carry it. This is refreshing, and allows the viewer to focus on the scenery and the way things are shot, rather than things like CGI monsters. There are many single-shot sequences used in the film, ones that really manage to stand out. They’re quite beautiful to look at, and while I’m sure they were tough to film, they end up being the highlights of the film.
The other thing the film has going for it is its acting. While the lead performance of Clive Owen didn’t resonate with me well, the supporting cast managed to make up for it. Michael Caine and Clare-Hope Ashitey were especially good in their roles, and they made us care for them and their situations. Clive Owen, however, felt hollow as the lead, and while this may be intentional given that his character didn’t appear to care much for the world, it was off-putting.
Children of Men felt like a short film that had to fill up an hour and a half running time. It had many plot points that didn’t go anywhere, and while these parts are interesting, connecting them to the rest of the story certainly would have been appreciated. The premise seemed quite silly to me, not really making a lot of sense. The acting was overall decent, and the film was shot beautifully. It just doesn’t always come together properly into a cohesive picture. It manages to stay entertaining for the majority of its running time, but it doesn’t amount to much by the end.