“Children of Men” is visually stunning, thematically empty

It’s hard to find a film with a positive outlook on the future. If someone were to take anything from post-apocalyptic movies, it’s that the future is bleak and scary; or at least that’s what co-writer/director Alfonso Cuaron would like people to believe. His “Children of Men” is the ultimate futuristic downer.

Forget global warming or nuclear warfare. Instead, allow yourself to imagine a world 21 years from now where women are infertile: a world with very little potential. This is the world Theo (Clive Owen) has come to call his own. That is, until he is recruited by Julian (Julianne Moore), the mother of his dead child, to help her assist a rebel group as they attempt to transport a pregnant immigrant named Kee to a group called “The Human Project.” Seem a little mysterious?

Why women are suddenly infertile and why Kee happens to be the exception to this rule are just a number of the unanswered questions you’ll be left pondering well after the movie has ended. Why all the mystery? Because, for Cuaron, it’s not the how and why of the situation that is intriguing, but rather it’s the consequences of living in such an unstable world that tickles his fascination.

What do we do? How do we prevail? These are the fundamental questions “Children of Men” tries to explore. But, can an audience truly appreciate the aftermath of a situation when no one is told how it all went wrong in the first place?

This is where “Children of Men” runs into problems. In refusing to direct audiences’ curiosities, it leaves viewers with more questions than answers; which is like having just finished dinner and still feeling hungry- unsatisfying.

Which is a real shame, because “Children of Men” is an exceptionally well-directed film, has great performances from everyone involved and offers the kind of jaunting visuals that made Terrence Malick’s “The New World” such a joy to behold. But, altogether, it’s a film that asks more of its audience than it gives.

Danny Gordon can be contacted at d.gordon@umiami.edu.