There was a year that I went to the movies every weekend and kept a diary of all the films I saw. It was a New Year’s Resolution I made, and they are promises that I do not take lightly. One might look at what I do now with The Legionnaire and say to this revelation, so what? You do this now. That is mostly true. If you can believe this, my theater attendance is less of a commitment now as when I made the resolution. When I make a vow, I like to stick to it. Today’s film, Children of Men (2006), actually premiered early in the following year, the one in question. It was one marked not only by my ridiculous promise. I will always remember this movie in particular because it was the last one I saw with my poor cousin before she was killed in a drunk driving accident. I will not get into details about that tragic day, but suffice to say she was not the one behind the wheel, being fourteen at the time. I cannot remember why she wanted to see this movie, but I was only too happy to take her along. I would have gladly taken her to every film I went to that year if it had meant that she would still be alive today. This is why I pray for her as often as I can.
After that less-than-cheery thought, it will come as no surprise that Children of Men has a pretty sad beginning. It is set in 2027, and humanity has become infertile. This news is introduced to us as our protagonist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), enters a coffee shop. A television inside is broadcasting a story about how the world’s youngest person, an eighteen-year-old, has died. This is adding to the already tense situation in the world, which is punctuated when shortly after he leaves the store, it blows up. Responsibility for the attack is claimed by a terrorist group that calls themselves the Fishes. Seeking a respite from the danger, Theo decides to visit a fellow former political activist and friend Jasper Palmer (Michael Caine), who is taking care of his catatonic wife, Janice (Philippa Urquhart). The next day, the Fishes come to the Palmer residence looking for Theo, led by his ex-wife Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore). Because Theo works for the government, Julian wants him to secure transit papers, and claims that her group had not been responsible for the bombing. You can tell there is still feeling there, united in their shared grief over the loss of their child as an infant. Theo agrees to help, and is able to get his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston), another government bureaucrat, to give him the necessary documents. Given the tense situation, especially in regards to immigrants who are blamed for most of the troubles, the papers are provided on the condition that Theo travel with the person for which they are meant. The person in question Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), is a refugee. They are to transport her to the coast, along with a few other members of the Fishes. Not long after they set out, though, they are stopped by the police. They seem to disregard their documents, and in response one of the passengers, Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), shoots them. In the process, Julian is shot and killed, much to Theo’s dismay. After a short funeral, they press on and reach a farm, which is also a safe house for the Fishes. Kee does not seem to trust the others, but because Theo does not count himself among the ranks of the radical group, she reveals to him her incredible secret: she is pregnant. It also turns out that her distrust of the Fishes is well founded. Theo eavesdrops on the Fishes, discovering that they wish to use Kee’s baby for their own political ends, and that they had planned Julian’s death. In response, Kee and Theo slip out of the farm early the next morning and flee to the Palmer residence. Unfortunately, the Fishes find them there, too. Jasper tells Kee and Theo to escape, while he attempts to stall the Fishes while they get away, dying in the process. From there, Theo contacts an immigration officer he knows named Syd (Peter Mullan), who can slip them into the refugee camp at Bexhill on the coast of England, which is their target destination where they are to be taken to a free organization called Tomorrow. As it would happen, as they are being smuggled into the poverty-stricken city, Kee goes into labor, though she manages to hide it. Inside the confines of the walled off town, they are met by a foreigner named Marichka (Oana Pellea), who gives them a room for the night. It is there that Kee gives birth to a girl. The Fishes, however have not forgotten about Kee. The next morning, they break into the city, which triggers a major battle not only between them and the army, but also the people trapped inside. They find Kee and Theo, and take Kee and her baby away. Theo goes after them, finding them in a building that is currently under assault by the army. He finds Kee with Luke, who is making a desperate last stand, and mortally wounds Theo before being killed himself. It is at this point that Kee’s daughter begins crying, the sound of which stuns the combatants within earshot, giving Kee and Theo enough time to make their way to the waiting rowboat before the fighting recommences. With his last bit of strength, Theo paddles out to Tomorrow’s waiting boat, with fighter jets pummeling Bexhill in the background, teaching Kee how to burp her child before succumbing to his wounds.
So, yeah, Children of Men does not have the happiest ending, though thankfully mother and child live. I like to think that maybe the Tomorrow people were able to save Theo, but that is probably wishful thinking. And before you go thinking that Kee’s pregnancy is the result of immaculate conception, which would be seemingly fitting for this Catholic reviewer, that is not how she is presented. It is not the point, either. The movie is about how modern society is heading towards the kind of scientific and social breakdown that would lead to the disaster that we witness in Bexhill. The moment in the film that has always fascinated this reviewer is the moment when Kee and Theo step out of the building towards the end with her baby, and the awed silence that falls over the fighters. In Catholicism, all life is precious. In the film, it would seem that decades without a new baby being born has made humanity finally be hip to this reality. Please do not think that I am advocating the kind of disordered society present in the movie in order for life to be respected in the manner you see in this scene. My Catholic take on this dystopia is that, with abortions, birth control, and a whole host of other damaging philosophies that disregard life, these create the conditions for such a world. If you do not want to get to that point, then perhaps we should rethink what we are believing in as a society? Either way, this Catholic will stick to his Faith.
Children of Men is rated R for good reason. There is a lot of violence in it, and the randomness is difficult to watch. It is meant to underscore the trying times in which the characters live, but it is still hard to bear. There is also the casual drug use by the Palmers, with Theo partaking. Yet, what makes such movies diamonds in the rough are the scenes that I praised in the last paragraph. There is also Theo’s heroism. He goes from an embittered government official to a defender of life. It may not have the prettiest wrapping, but his desire to protect the gift of life is worth the price of admission.