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Children of Men review - Light One Candle

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January 6th, 2007


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11:01 pm - Children of Men review
I've been looking forward to this film in a vague sort of way, ever since I saw a trailer for it over the summer (attached to Miami Vice, of all things, iirc). I didn't keep up with all the news or anything (I didn't even recall that it was directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuaron until I saw his name in the credits), but I knew I would try to see it in the theatre, because the style looked good and the premise is fascinating:

What would happen in the world, if the human race suddenly became infertile? Completely?

What would it look like, be like, 20 years later?


And what if, in that time...
...a woman in the midst of a world falling to pieces became pregnant? What if you were the man who, by chance and by faith, became the only one who could help her and her baby survive?

Children of Men works on two levels: as speculative fiction, and as a gripping thriller.

I have not read the novel by P.D. James, and at the moment I think I'm glad, because I enjoyed this movie throughly. It moved me, and made me think; it drew me in, and kept me on my toes. I'm sure that there is much more to this dystopian future world than we get to see in the film. The plot, the pace, moves so rapidly that there is only time to learn what is vitally important to Theo, and to Kee. The rest of the details (billboards, deportation buses, the total lack of anyone under the age of 18, burned bodies by the roadside) slide past without description, mere setting for the story we follow.

And while I enjoyed this film on both of those levels, there is also a touch of something else. Jasper, Theo's old and wise hippie friend, tells Kee about the world's balance between chance and faith; what happens in the world without our help or action, and what we do because of what we believe it. Over and over again, in subtle ways, I saw that--maybe only because Jasper brought it to my attention in a few short lines. The climax is almost unbelievable...except that, in this particular future, it's also the only believable response.

Even seeing this new child, even in the middle of a war zone where all are going to die...it's hope, and peace, and joy. Terror dies, for an exquisite sequence (I love the music here, though I'm not sure it wouldn't have played just as well without any music at all).

Faith. Even here, it accomplishes much.

The characters were well drawn, all of them, though I would single out Clive Owen as Theo, who carries the brunt of the film's emotion. These are people whom I will remember. Sacrifices, and moments of tenderness and humor, and of rage--I will remember.

Sometimes I think that's all I could ask from a film. This had that, and more.


Go. See it. whitemartyr, you told me how you were studying thrillers? Yeah. Go see this one--talk about upping the stakes every ten minutes (or less).
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(11 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:January 7th, 2007 07:43 pm (UTC)
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*shields eyes from spoilers*

Okay! Advice taken... I shall go see.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 9th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
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Good for you, on avoiding the spoilers! :-)
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:January 7th, 2007 07:52 pm (UTC)
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Hey! Geo and I haven't been to a movie since Goblet of Fire, so I'm insisting we go to a movie today. But we didn't know what we wanted to see. And this one looked really good. Interesting that you should post this.

Our choices came down to:

Night at the Museum (which is what we've decided to see because A) it looks like something Geo would write; and B) because it's all gloomy out and our other choices look way too heavy for today)

Children of Men

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

I'm hoping we didn't see all the good stuff in our chosen movie when we watched the trailer. That would be bad.

I also want to see Pursuit of Happyness and Apocalyto, but as you can see, we're going for the light-weight today.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 9th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
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You definitely should see Children of Men. It's stunningly good.

Pan's Labyrinth also looks good, though I understand it's only in a moderately wide release and you guys might not get it over there.

I can also recommend The Pursuit of Happyness, which is hard to watch in places, but in which Will Smith shines, and which has a lot of laughter and love in it as well. It's not a downer at all.
[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:January 16th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
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You know what? I saw "Children of Men" last night and I didn't like it. It made me really frustrated. For one thing, I sat too close and the constant shaking of the camera gave me a headache :s

I liked Jasper and some of the conversations with him. But I hated the ending. And I was so jarred by the violence and the similarities to how I could (unfortunately) see our world going with what felt to me like little resolution, that I came out of the theatre just feeling distraught. :/ Plus, the CGI baby was just weird.
[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:January 17th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC)
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i realize my hissy-fit-daniel may have given the wrong impression. I didn't hate it. I just didn't really get why people love it so much... but it definitely DOES up the stakes every 3 minutes or so, like you said. :)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 17th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC)
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I kind of am amused by hissy-fit-Daniel, so no worries. :-)

As for my love of this film, I think it's pretty evenly divided between these things:

--Theo. A character who has already fallen about as low as he can go, and spends the film in a mad race that he only half understands, which somehow gives him what he has needed. His arc begins at the low point, and carries him up to nothing short of quiet heroism (my favorite kind). (I'm not even going to add "Clive Owen's performance" here, because I think he's so subtle, it's really the character whom I love.)

--The realism. Yes, it's very disturbing--I think because it's so close to our own world. Makes is very scary. I had bizarre dreams for three days after seeing this film. But it was just so impossibly compelling. I love a film that can grab me by the gut like that. (There's another edge to this, too: things are not over-explained. We're just dropped in and let swim, and I adore it when a filmmaker trusts me enough to do that.)

--The underlying (possibly not wholly intentional) theme of faith as a necessity for life and love. Theo goes from having faith in nothing, to having faith in Kee, in the baby, in the Human Project...even, though it's not said, in God, I think. In the job that Theo has been entrusted with. Enough faith to carry him till death.

--Yes, the CGI baby was a little odd. But--and maybe this is just my current obsession with babies (dude, biological clock, I'm only 26!)--I loved beyond anything the scene with the crying baby in the building full of refugees. A miracle in the midst of death and squalor. Theo and Kee carrying the baby right through the lines of the soldiers. The firing resumes right afterwards, but...oh, oh, oh. *holds hand to heart*

Anyway. I understand that a lot of people are dis-satisfied with the ending, and I suppose I can't blame them...but it felt just right to me. This is Theo's story, and now it has ended. He has fulfilled his quest.

*shrug* My $0.02.
[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:January 17th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
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Oh, I did like the stuff WITH the baby, I just wished they'd used a real baby. And yes, that scene with them carrying the baby through the refugees, past all the soldiers was amazing.

I think, yes. I think I wasn't able to latch onto Theo the way I was supposed to. Maybe because of sitting to close and having a headache and thinking 'stop wiggling the frikkin camera' for the first few minutes when I was supposed to be fallin in love with the hero... ? Could be.

I actually came out of this film thinking I would like the book. Because I accept endings and stories like this more readily as books, the disutopia of say, 'Brave New World' which I don't think I'd ever want to see on film...

I dn't think 'Children of Men' was a bad film. Quite the contrary. I just didn't relate to/enjoy it as much as I had hoped. It was very well done indeed. And having read your comments I can understand more of what you saw and why it moved you so.
[User Picture]
From:whitemartyr
Date:January 17th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)

p.p.s.

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I think Kee and Jasper were my favourites. I like how she kept saying 'wicked!' to everything.

Oh, and it made me think of 'Chosen' more than once...
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 17th, 2007 12:47 am (UTC)
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Oh, I did like the stuff WITH the baby, I just wished they'd used a real baby.

Yeah, I kind of wish someone would ask the director why he chose to do it that way. It's not like most of the scenes where baby is *visible* were dangerous ones. *scratches head*

I think I wasn't able to latch onto Theo the way I was supposed to. Maybe because of sitting to close and having a headache and thinking 'stop wiggling the frikkin camera'

That could well be. I honestly didn't recall how they handled the camera until I was reading reviews afterwards; I got very wrapped up in it and paid little attention to the "art" until I could get out of that headspace...much later. :-) I do see how it could be kind of incompatible with a headache (ow).
[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:March 1st, 2008 04:28 am (UTC)
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Having just seen this on DVD, I must say that I didn't know until afterward (though I didn't really think about it) that the baby was CGI. In fact, when the baby was born, and Theo placed her on Kee's tummy, my first comment was something to the effect of "Wow, that's a fresh little squeaker." And in far corners of my mind, I'm thinking "How the heck did they get permission to use a squeaker that fresh? Is a squeaker that fresh even allowed on set?"

So my guess is that they used CGI so they could actually show what they did of the birth, and so they could cover CGI baby in CGI baby-goo.

FWIW.

Very intense movie. I don't know if I could have handled it very well in the theater. With the constant loss of allies and gaining (and then losing) of new ones . . . just . . . ugh.

And I almost cried when they were carrying the baby out of the old building.

Thank you for pointing out that the story ends with Theo, since it's his story. Because while I thought the movie had a fine ending (we know Kee gets to the Project), it was a little jarring with the music they played over the credits. Though I did like hearing all the children over the soundtrack as the credits rolled.

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