I’ve never read any PD James books, but I rather want to now. I finally got round to watching Children of Men and it was every bit as good as I’d imagined and hoped. It fits in rather well with the other two films that I bought it with, V for Vendetta and Pan’s Labyrinth.
From the strange semi-parental relationships between the protagonists to the political overtones, from the films set in Europe from directors from the Americas to the brutal fates of their central characters, but perhaps the thing they have in common is hope. Hope, sometimes misplaced, sometimes not, in the face of terrible darkness. It binds these three films set in very different times and places together. They all focus upon a character learning how to be truly free in the face huge obstacles, even in death that freedom cannot be taken.
In the trailer for Children on Men, the protagonist, Theo, comments that he cannot remember when he last had any hope, never mind when anyone else did. The world of the film is familiar. I’m personally of the opinion that no one ends the world quite like the French, but this is a very British dystopia. Familiar attitudes, politics, media and general urban disintegration taken to their logical conclusion. Perhaps it takes an outsider to see it from such an angle but still, I’m not sure a British director could have created such a close to home dystopia as Alfonso Cuarón has. British independent cinema has an unfortunate tendency towards either frivolity or desolation. The issue that has always limited by enjoyment of the films of the films of Ken Loach or Lynne Ramsay is that hope is always lost. There is so much hope and bravery in Sweet Sixteen battling constantly to shine against the odds, yet the boy, as his sister angrily tells him, screws it up, lets the forces he’s battled so long and hard against win. I’m afraid I need something more from a film, I need something that says that though its his fault that he screwed up at the end, that he was right to dream and fight for his dreams.
And, for me, that is the little difference that ensures that Children of Men works. Even though he dies, he dies with hope. He’s kept his promise to both Kee and Julian. It is ultimately his hope that keeps Kee going, she trusts in him to get her to the boat and he does. Even if we’d never seen the boat at the end we believe it will come because he does. He’s carried Kee so far, rowed her out to sea in spite of what is evidently a fatal bullet wound and he only allows himself to give in and rest when he is convinced that he has done all he has promised, and all that he can to ensure the safety of her and her baby.
The boat comes, his hope is justified. No matter what happens on that boat and in the future, he was right to hope and to fight to keep the girl and her baby safe. For a chance to give hope to the rest of the world. Because I do believe that it is always right to hope for and fight for a better world. And I don’t mean fight with bullets and swords (though sometimes that seems the only way) but with words and attitudes and actions. Changing the world starts with changing people’s minds. Even if that’s only one person at a time.