Many science fiction films opt either for immersive and expansive world building or for detailed character development and humanity. Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece, has both in spades. The year is 2027 and no human child has been born in over 18 years (the film begins with the death of the youngest human being). Theo (Clive Owen in his greatest on-screen performance) is one of millions full of apathy and depression.
A world without children, without the sound of laughing on the playgrounds, has become effectively a world without hope. The British Government, fascist, totalitarian, and fiercely anti-immigrant is seemingly the last standing in the world, battled ferociously by The Fishes, a “terrorist” group led by Julian (Julianne Moore). Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is miraculously pregnant and the film chronicles her journey, accompanied by Theo and The Fishes.
Cuaron treats the science fiction elements and the human elements with precision and care, feeding off of his own superb script, which allows he and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to create an immersive visual masterpiece. Much of what makes science fiction a fantastic genre is on display here – Cuaron doesn’t forsake his big ideas and methodical world building in his crafting of this deeply human tale. Children of Men exudes pathos from every frame amidst its gritty landscape, feeling brutally real and never falls into cloying sentimentality. One of the best science fiction films ever made.