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While most of us were waiting for a whimper or a bang,
The world we knew withdrew instead of ending.
We thought that we would certainly bounce back or boomerang,
And still we watch and wait, uncomprehending.

No more are teens or children even deemed a demographic,
For all are grown with none to take their place.
No crying babies anymore, no more school zone traffic,
And no descendants for a dying race.

It’s funny how the future’s so dependent on the youth
Who’ll live it out and screw it up anew.
Without them, it’s the present that becomes the only truth,
No benefit of retrospect for you.

MPA rating: R (for violence, language, and a childbirth scene)

At long last, we are here at the end of last year’s Blindspots! It’s been like pulling teeth for some reason getting to these overdue reviews, but hopefully I can pick up the pace with new material for the year. Luckily, I ended this 2022 series with a winner. Based on the P.D. James novel, Children of Men is the scariest kind of dystopia, one that feels all too possible within its speculative what-if scenario. Even aspects that may have seemed less immediate in 2006 have taken on an uncomfortable prescience now, from the chaos of illegal immigration to government-sanctioned self-euthanasia.

Instead of some distant nuclear war or technological breakthrough, this world’s disaster is the slow and quiet death of infertility. Since 2009, women can no longer get pregnant, and now in 2027, children are a thing of the past, with hope being further corroded by England’s brutally suppressed influx of refugees. Bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen) sees little he can do in the face of the crisis until he is drawn into the effort of his activist ex-wife (Julianne Moore) to get a somehow pregnant refugee named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to safety.

Director Alfonso Cuaron outdid himself in making Children of Men a gripping and visceral experience. I was bordering on bored during the first twenty minutes, as the extreme despair of Theo’s London is presented, a world fumbling through a tunnel with no light at the end. Yet once the main quest of the plot is established, ferrying Kee out of England to a mysterious organization called the Human Project, it becomes a breathless chase as Theo and his allies must outmaneuver insurgents and government obstacles. Even the less bombastic moments have a suspenseful edge to them, like a “car chase” in which a stalling car rolls downhill with runners in close pursuit. (That actually sounds strangely comical written down, but it’s thrilling in context.) While it was nice seeing the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine, the performances don’t stand out as much as the technical excellence around them, but they build on the plot’s subtext as a modern Nativity story, with Owen’s everyman helping Ashitey’s Marian figure through dangers on all sides.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m a sucker for long scenes with no (or hidden) cuts, which happen to be Cuaron’s specialty. I was familiar with a scene in which a car is assailed by an armed mob, which required an impressive camera rig to swing around the inside of a car with five people in it, but even more impressive was an over-six-minute shot in which Theo weaves through an urban warzone, into and out of a building under heavy fire. It’s hard for anything to top the feature length of 1917, but the sheer audacity of staging and shooting such a sequence has my immense respect and admiration.

Of course, I would have preferred it without the cursing and two brief scenes of nudity, but Children of Men deserves its critical acclaim. I’m honestly surprised that it wasn’t deemed worthy of Oscar nominations for Best Picture or Best Director (it did get a nod for Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay), but it’s not the first time the Academy snubbed a deserving film. I read that the film’s ending was intentionally left open-ended to allow for hope or despair depending on the viewer, and I’m rather glad that I found it hopeful, if bittersweet. It’s not always easy finding that light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there.

Best line: (Michael Caine’s Jasper) “Everything is a mythical, cosmic battle between faith and chance.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up (close to List-Worthy)

© 2023 S.G. Liput
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