Last night I got the chance to take in a movie, something I usually don’t do since I have Blockbuster Total Access. My boss gave me a free movie ticket for covering a shift, and so my friend Joe and I went to see the film Children of Men. Critics early on compared this film to Blade Runner, and though I can see where many can make the connection, I think CoM definitely has staked out some new territory and I think is overall a better story.
The story is set in London in the year 2027, in a world where children are no longer born because women are infertile, and the youngest person in the world has just died at the age of 18. It is here where we are introduced to Theo, and what we see quickly is that this man has experienced much pain in his life. Without any information yet given, the audience can clearly see that Theo is carrying around some kind of burden, and that his past haunts him everyday. Britain proudly claims that it is still the most civilized country, even though the rest of the world has torn itself apart due to its collective loss of a future, and thus hope. But in reality Britain is teetering on the edge of mass chaos, as beggars are rampant in the street, violence is everywhere, and police are rounding up illegal immigrants looking for a safe-haven. It is in this context that Theo lives his everyday life, but after learning about the youngest human dying, he is kidnapped by the Fishers, a terrorist group that is led by his ex-wife Julian.
Julian introduces Theo to Key, a young immigrant girl who the Fishers are protecting and who seems awfully important since there is much at risk by harboring an illegal. Theo is asked to help Key get to The Human Project, a mysterious organization that Julian and Key believe will help provide a viable future for the world. As Theo reluctantly agrees to help, he realizes that there is much more at stake than just transporting an illegal across England, he learns that Key is in fact pregnant.
It is at this point in the film where the story really begins to take hold of the viewer. For Theo there is much tension; Why not just tell the authorities about Key? Who are the Fishers and what do they really want to accomplish? With all of the police and mass chaos in the streets, will they even make it to The Human Project? And if so, what is The Human Project? Theo is forced to make decisions with faith, and in being mindful of his past, we understand why faith would be a hard thing to have and why hope seems so far away.
The author of the book which inspired the film is British crime novelist P.D. James, who is a Christian. For me, this film was very hard to watch at times but also strikingly beautiful in the midst of such suffering and nihilism. For those familiar with the birth narratives in the gospels of the New Testament and the context of Palestine at the time of Jesus, this film gives a harsh but honest look at what it might have been like to bring such an important child into such a horrendous world. Violence was continuous, power struggles between the empire and rebels were throughout the countryside, and people who once had faith found the future to be quite bleak. It was in the midst of this turmoil that Christ was born, and from watching Children of Men, I am reminded what it took to protect that child in such a sinful world. Children of Men is devastating at times, and yet it might be closer to the reality of the birth narratives than The Nativity Story.