Interesting but Overcooked Speculative Drama, 9 January 2007
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
Alfonso Cuaron (most well known for directing the overrated and raunchy coming-of-age story “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and the third–and the best–of the “Harry Potter” series) does a nice job of setting the mood with his gritty and eclectic take on a dystopian future where women have become infertile and Britian is a volatile police state where the biggest crime is being an illegal immigrant. This central conceit is mildly interesting, but the screenwriters populate the allegorical fiction with stock characters: people and ideas painted with broad strokes and little development, and peppered with quirky side-stories and characters who are often more interesting than the overly symbolic main plot line.
What emerges is quasi-entertaining movie bubbling over with overcooked details and a few good scenes. Though dropping the ball in the intimate interludes that are supposed to add dramatic weight (the screaming match on the bus between Clive Owen and Julianne Moore about grief seemed especially staged and unreal), Cuaron directs the suspense and action scenes with appropriate zeal. Sadly, everyone in the film constantly looks tired (Owen taking a nap in a car and Moore actually yawning in one pivotal scene), so between the good stuff I often felt the same.
There are three really well constructed sequences that on their own are very thrilling: a reverse vehicular escape from a an angry mob that ends tragically, another vehicular escape at dawn down a dirt farm road where the car just doesn’t want to start, and one of the closing scenes of a lonely rowboat in a choppy bay surrounded by fog.
The rest is haphazard filler that had me distracted most of the time. “Children of Men” eventually became of movie of frustrating details. For instance, the title makes no sense when you think about it. Unless sprung from immaculate conception, we are currently all children of men, so this would only be an appropriate title if all the women in the world were dead and men started having babies. The movie cost over $80 million dollars to make (and it looks great) but why couldn’t they fork out the extra cash to pay for the real Rolling Stones’ version of “Ruby Tuesday” instead of a lousy cover? The song plays a crucial part yet becomes aggravating to hear. Finally, instead of caring about what happens to the two lead characters during the excellently filmed siege of the refugee camp, I cared more about what was going to happen to some poor gypsy woman and her little dog.
Though it has plenty of interesting minutae to keep things entertaining, the film never coalesces as a whole. Despite three really good scenes, “Children of Men” unfortunately solidifies Cuaron’s status as the best director yet to make a great film.
Originally published on the Internet Movie Database
I have also written a review of Children of Men which I invite you to read by way of introducing you to my blog.
If you are interested I am interested in exchanging links.
All the best,
“For instance, the title makes no sense when you think about it.”
Children of Mankind.
Does that help?
Btw, as you noted, a man does in fact act as husband (protector) to the woman and the new baby. He gives his life for that duty. All men aren’t evil capitalist rapists you know.
ps The city seige rescue scene was even better than the rowboat scence.
Mark, the city seige scene was well done, though overloaded with all the “bowing to the baby” mumbo jumbo. There was just something about the rowboat scene that struck me as visually poetic, almost like a painting. My fond feelings for the scene, however, are completely seperate from my mixed feelings about the film and my non-feelings about the characters in the scene. -DHS
siege and scene. quiet.
The problem with “Children of Men”, I felt, was that it was an action film presented under the guise of social commentary. The commentary is mostly absent and, when present, fails to strike or even tickle a nerve. Cuaron gives gives us no reason to believe that the world he conjures is an extension of where we are now; his future doesn’t grow from our present, but exists independently. The “social astuteness” of the film is a flaky cover for what is, essentially, an excellently choreographed and well paced action film. Cuaron’s mistake is that he shies from admitting this. When it happens that we are led to ignore the social pretensions, the film is gloriously exciting and successful. However, Cuaron builds his social case so indefatigably that we are seldom given reason to look past it.
‘“Children of Men” unfortunately solidifies Cuaron’s status as the best director yet to make a great film.’
— Fabulously put.
Robert, excellent point! All the elements of the film I enjoyed were the traditional “action/thriller” elements, while all of the social commentary was muddled and misguided. -DHS