In Case You Missed It: Children of Men explores being sedated to injustices around you

The film’s dystopian setting depicts real-world inequality


By: Yildiz Subuk, Peak Associate

Content warning: violence, racism, Islamophobia, and genocide.

Alfonso Cauron’s 2006 film, Children Of Men, tells two thematic stories that overlap  throughout its nearly two-hour run time. The first story focuses on the protagonist, Theo (played by Clive Owen) as he aimlessly goes about his days in the year 2027. Residing in London, he ignores the harsh reality the film presents us with: the world is coming to a slow but imminent end as infertility has plagued the planet. No new children have been born for more than 18 years. In the opening scene, many are shown cramped inside a coffee shop watching a news report of the youngest person on the planet passing away. The members of the crowd are struck with horror and dread, but Theo, who appears a few seconds afterwards, brushes past everyone to order his coffee and go about his day. 

Theo is sedated. It’s not that Theo doesnt care about anything, but his faith in humanity has died. He remains complicit in his sedation in order to cope, with no intentions of finding ways to make the world a better place until he is asked to transport a girl across the map for a large sum of money. After an event that presents him with a glimmer of hope, Theo slowly becomes more aware of the inequalities around him.

As the film progresses, Theo’s story overlaps with the xenophobic and dystopian setting. Cauron’s film world is not overtly futuristic, but instead is a bleak rendition of current reality sprinkled with some minor technological innovations. It is not the techno aspect the film decides to focus on, but the extent of xenophobia and disregard for oppressed individuals that the film showcases. While the film’s cinematography is unconventional, it’s a masterful work in storytelling. The shots are a series of long takes — often unbroken sequences that track Theo while also emphasizing the background. It presents the audience with footage of people who are wounded or immigrants detained. The London we see is a façade, trying to pose as one of the only places left that hasn’t fallen into total anarchy and chaos. However, the truth is slowly revealed as immigrants are forced to live in poor conditions. This occurs while privileged individuals live their lives, ignorant to the suffering around them.

Children of Men is not a story about where humanity is headed, but an examination of where we are now. The rise of xenophobic beliefs amidst largescale crises, as well as ethnic minority groups facing the most brutal violence, are issues that are prevalent in the world today. In China, Uyghur Muslims are systematically placed in camps and dehumanized for their beliefs and identity. In occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinians are systemically displaced, expelled, and live under apartheid while their suffering is ignored by western powers. While Palestinians are having their history and identity violently erased, the Israeli government tries to present their country as a thriving, idealistic nation. In both these examples, minority groups are facing unfathomable suffering, while many of the country’s privileged population stay sedated to what is going on around them

It may be easy to get caught up in our own lives and filter out the world around us, but we have a responsibility to act against injustices. Acknowledging and learning about these injustices and their roots can inspire action and advocacy. Instead of trying to prophesize a bleak future, Children of Men confronts us with the present in the form of a dystopian tale. 

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