Sunday, 24 January 2010

'Children of men'

Last night DH and I watched 'Children of Men' on the telly. It's a film whose main premise is that the entire human race is suffering from unexplained infertility. The youngest person in the world is 18, and the world is full of violence and oppression - "because that's what happens when you lose the sound of children's laughter". Then one woman becomes pregnant, and the film is the story of how one man helps her and tries to save her from the people who would harm her and use her baby for their own nefarious means.

Three things struck me about this film.

The first is that, although the film is 'about' infertility, it didn't touch me emotionally at all. It was a sci-fi action thriller, and there was too much violence and fighting in it to allow the emotional side of infertility to be explored at all.

I found it a very shallow film, where endless fighting (and the idiotic hero irritatingly putting himself and the girl in danger by standing around to see what happened next at the places he'd just left rather than trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the baddies they were escaping from) and sweeping shots of unexplained desolation (apart from the fact that it was filmed in a year when in real life we'd recently had a foot and mouth outbreak, why did they show footage of a pile of dead cows being burnt?) moved the plot along without allowing us to see how the situation had developed or how people felt about it.

There was a scene at the beginning where there was mass hysteria and loads of people crying and wailing because the youngest person in the world had been murdered - but there was no real emotion in it, and the over-the-topness of the weeping and wailing took away any sadness in the scene and turned it almost into something comic.

The second thing was a little throwaway comment towards the beginning of the film. The infertility was described as being a problem of the women - nobody could understand why they were suddenly all infertile. There was no suggestion that there might be any issue with the men as well. And that saddened me, because it seems that in real life, too, it is very often assumed that the woman is the problem. Here was a chance to drop into a mindless action film the idea that infertility has a male side as well as a female side, and it's a shame the easy 'blame the woman' line was used instead.

The third thing was this joke told by Michael Caine's character that I actually found quite funny.

There's a big dinner going on, and everyone around the table is discussing the problem of infertility and speculating about why nobody is able to have children. One man keeps silent, tucking into his meal with great gusto.

Eventually, someone says to him, "You've been fairly quiet in all this discussion. What do you think is the cause of all this infertility?"

He looks up from the barbecued meat he's been chomping on and says, "I really don't know - but this stork is delicious, isn't it?"


  1. I watched this movie on video a few years ago and liked it, but I also wasn't dealing with infertility at the time. I thought the concept was unlikely but unique. Not particularly well-acted, etc., but interesting. My current experience would certainly shine a different light on it. No way I could digest it the same way, so I may go watch it again just to see. You certainly caught a lot of things I didn't (but again, my perspective was quite different at the time).

    And yeah, I think that final line is pretty freakin' funny!

  2. I read an interview with the director, and he actually said that the infertility itself didn't interest him and was just a backdrop to the film - and it shows. I was just a bit disappointed by how shallow it was - but as an action movie, it was quite entertaining.