Opens Monday December 25 CHILDREN OF MEN directed by Alfonso Cuarón, written by Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby from the novel by P. D. James, with Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julianne Moore. 109 minutes. A Universal release. For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
This has been an outstanding year for Mexican directors. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu's Babel won raves and prizes at Cannes, and Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and Alfonso Cuarón's Children Of Men are both opening Christmas Day.
The three directors are almost exact contemporaries. They were born within three years of each other and rose through the industry ranks at the same time.
At 45, Cuarón is the oldest of the three and the one who's achieved the widest success, following art-house smash Y Tu Mamá También with Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the most improbable double bill of the decade.
In a suite at the Four Seasons, Cuarón laughs at that incongruity. "Remember, I already had a relationship with Warner because of A Little Princess. And J. K. Rowling liked Y Tu Mamá."
Children Of Men is a dystopic science fiction film about a very near future 20 years down the road when humanity has simply stopped being able to reproduce. Those who aren't being rounded up by the government as dissidents and illegal aliens mope from day to day, doing their jobs and waiting for the end. Then Clive Owen is recruited by a resistance movement to help rescue the first pregnant woman in 18 years.
"I loved the material, but I couldn't see how to get a movie from it. Then I started to see it as a metaphor for our lack of hope and perspective."
It certainly was not the sci-fi quotient that drew him to the film.
"I was never interested in science fiction. The production designers hated me. They wanted to imagine and create, but I wanted everything in the film's technology to be available today. The advanced technology is run down, the cars are a little more futuristic, but progress stops having any meaning when there's no future. The designers of the great cathedrals knew they wouldn't see them finished, but they knew the next generation would see them.
"At the end, the world we live in is a big hangover from the 60s. It's beautiful in many ways, but we're trapped by our hedonistic attitudes. We live in a culture of instant gratification. The economy is the same it's what's good for us now, without considering the future. The film is about what happens when you stop caring about the next generation."
Harry Potter and Children Of Men represent almost five years of Cuarón's career. Given that he began with the very funny Sólo Con Tu Pareja (it's on a Criterion DVD), I wonder if he has any plans to do another comedy.
"After Children Of Men, I need to do a comedy."
CHILDREN OF MEN(Alfonso Cuarón) Rating: NNN
We're 25 years into the future, and humankind has lost its ability to reproduce. In this disintegrating world, Clive Owen finds himself press-ganged by the resistance (his ex-wife, played by Julianne Moore, and Chiwetel Ejiofor) to help smuggle the first pregnant girl in 18 years to The Human Project, which may or may not exist.
On a good day, this grey dystopia looks like Sarajevo 1997. Street gangs battle the army, and dissenters and illegal aliens are rounded up in detention camps.
Director Alfonso Cuarán (Y Tu Mamá Tambin, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban) has made a strong film with striking performances. Nothing about its ambiguous ending alleviates the despair of the preceding 105 minutes.