Film: Children of Men

"Last one to die, please turn out the light."
Graffiti sprayed on a wall

Children of Men is a 2006 childless dystopian science fiction film co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It is loosely based on the novel The Children Of Men by P. D. James.

It's 2027, and no child has been born for nearly two decades. It appears that the United Kingdom has the only functional government left in the world, albeit barely, and British society teeters on the verge of collapse due to the problems thrown up by a long economic decline, an overpopulation and refugee ('fujee) crisis, and terrorism.

Theo, a white-collar worker, is distracted from his rut when his estranged wife approaches him for a favor - to help smuggle a refugee girl out of the country... who happens to be pregnant. Theo agrees to protect Kee on a dangerous journey - past rebels, a repressive government, and traitors - to see her to safety.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Playground
    • Kee is sitting on an old swing in an abandoned primary school while waiting for Syd. Considering there are no more children, it makes sense it is abandoned.
  • Action Survivor:
    • Theo spends most of the film running away from people with guns who want to kill him.
    • And Marishka. She uses a hammer to the head to deal with a jerkass.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In order to bring the book to the big screen, several key character roles were switched and streamlined and a Love Triangle was eliminated in order to focus more on The Chase. It all works in the book, but would have been quite clunky in a 2 and half hour movie. Not only that but Theo's occupation and overall character was switched from an Oxford historian who had to rely on his brain to a former activist who had to think quickly on his feet. It works perfectly in terms of the action-filled movie.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The scene with the mob chasing the car and being covered up by the media seems like a random plot device to provide a reason for Julian dying, but the novel actually explains that the youngest generation, called Omegas, go on random sprees of chaos because since they are treated with high regard they view everyone who is not an Omega with disgust.
    • However, it is suggested later that the riot in the woods was not happenstance, but organized by the Fishes to prevent Kee from leaving, that they may use her to their own political ends.
  • Anyone Can Die: People are dying left and right as soon as the main plot gets going. The final scene leaves only one main character and her newborn baby alive, with all other major characters either dead or presumably dead.
  • The Alcoholic: Theo, but he still uses up the last of his alcohol to sterilize his hands before delivering Kee's baby.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Try a whole society of them. When Theo is kidnapped off the street in broad daylight by masked gunmen, people don't even stop to look.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Society descends further and further into chaos as people realize that the human race will be extinguished in a matter of decades since reproduction is no longer possible.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1, on the way to Class 3.
  • As You Know: Whenever someone is trying to tell how the world turned into it's current state, Theo shuts them up, each time in more aggressive manner than previously.
  • Badass Longcoat: While it is a pretty normal wool, business trench-coat, it's pretty badass how even though Theo undergoes multiple wardrobe changes in the film, for better or for worse, one article of clothing is constant: the coat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The optimistic interpretation.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • At the start of the riot scene, you can hear demonstrators shouting,'Huyo mtu anakuja' repeatedly, which is Swahili for 'That man is coming'.
    • The song that Kee sings to her baby is a lullaby from Ghana called 'Kaa fo', which means 'Baby do not cry'.
  • Blast Out: After Theo and Kee bring the baby through a silenced battle, all it takes is one bullet for the fight to resume as if it had never happened.
    • In the movie it's some idiot firing an RPG that hits an APC dangerously close to Kee and Theo. The military retaliates explosively, every soldier shooting their guns as the tanks start to level the building.
  • Blatant Lies: After Julian is shot by masked gunmen, the police claim credit for killing her themselves.
    • Also after Jasper is shot, Theo tells them that he's fine.
  • Camera Abuse: Used frequently to add to the gritty visual style. For the last Epic Tracking Shot featured in the film the production crew had a perfect take, only to notice that blood had spattered on the lens. The cinematographer convinced the director to use the take anyway.
  • Childless Dystopia: The whole point of the movie.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: After Julian dies Theo goes to light a cigarette but ends up falling to the ground sobbing.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jasper.
  • Corrupt Cop: Syd breaks government protocol by allowing the protagonists to enter Bexhill in exchange for a large amount of Jaspers weed.
    • Before he is forced into Bexhill, a Homeland Security soldier steals Theo's watch.
  • Crapsack World: No babies are being born, dooming humanity to a slow but inevitable extinction. As a result, society has completely broken down, with pretty much the entire world being turned into nuclear wastelands or lawless war zones. Britain, possibly the only remaining pocket of civilization left, is a horribly authoritarian and xenophobic dystopia.
  • Creator Cameo: P.D.James can be spotted in the cafeteria scene.
  • Cute but Cacophonic: The baby's cry.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Kee eventually settles on naming the baby after Theo and Julian's dead son Dylan.
  • Dead Star Walking: The characters played by both Julianne Moore and Michael Caine die.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Not in this film. Fall down and shut up, no Final Speeches allowed, surviving characters will be busy running for their lives.
  • Delivery Stork: Used as the basis of an in-universe joke.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Downer Ending: The cynical interpretation.
  • Driven to Suicide: Not for a particular character, but for society in general. Given that there is no hope for a future because no children have been born in 18 years, the government rations suicide kits and anti-depressants.
  • Due to the Dead: Julian.
  • Empty Shell: Theo, due to the death of his and Julian's son from an illness. His state of mind is aptly summarized when Jasper asks him what he did for his birthday:
    Theo: Same as every other day. Woke up, felt like shit. Went to work, felt like shit.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: Alfonso Cuaron, the Director, is very fond of this technique and the film is famous for it. The action-climax is shot in one long shot in is over seven and a half minutes long.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As ruthless and xenophobic as the British government is, it does not actually seem to be white-supremacist (unlike, say, the government from V for Vendetta). When Theo suggests making Kee's pregnancy public by going to the government, she objects and says that the government will get rid of her and give the baby to a "posh black lady", implying that her race is a non-issue while her status as a refugee is. This is also supported by the government rounding up members of all racial backgrounds as long as they are classed as refugees.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: At the end of the movie, only Kee and her baby are left alive.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The British government, the last functioning government on the planet, has become an oppressive regime, while the Fishes are sadistic terrorists who would kill their own leader if it furthers their goal.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The BCC reports the news in 2027 instead of the BBC.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Lots of the history regarding the state of the world and the characters is given through environmental and background means. For instance, what happened to Jasper's wife (government torture for unkind reporting) and what happened to the rest of the world (global terrorism, including a nuclear strike on New York City).
    • In the background of the opening shot, The Shard can be seen next to St Pauls Cathedral, an impressive inclusion considering the building was only commissioned a year before the film was made.
    • Background advertisements reveal that due to the lack of children, companies have started making expensive designer clothes for pets instead, suggesting many people treat them like surrogate children.
    • Theo is seen wearing a well worn London 2012 Olympics hoodie. Despite the movie being filmed in 2006, in the 2027 setting it would be considered an old piece of clothing.
    • There is also a water conservation poster in the Ministry of Energy that illustrates Britain didn't escape the Atomic Hate: 38% of the water supply is contaminated by radioactive fall out.
    • The fighter jets that carpet bomb Bexhill at the end of the movie are F35 Lightening II's, which were only in the prototype design stage at the time of filming.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Theo. Pretty much every scene incorporates some kind of animal in them and they are always friendly to Theo.
  • The Fundamentalist: A large group of religious folk wearing yellow capes and holding signs saying 'Repent' are seen gathered in London, blaming humanities sin for the Sterility Plague.
    • Averted when Theo runs into a funeral procession of scary, bearded, angry, loud Islamists in Bexhill. They completely ignore him as if he weren't there and he runs right through the midst of them.
  • Future Slang: "'Fujee" (pronounced like "Fuji"), as a semi-derogatory shorthand for "refugee."
  • Gender Rarity Value: In the film, a fertile female is the sought-after rarity. In the book, it's a lack of fertile men.
  • Generic Graffiti: "Last one alive please turn out the light."
  • Government Agency of Fiction:
    • A British version of 'Homeland Security' oversees law and immigration enforcement.
    • The 'Ministry of the Arts' collects and displays classic works of art and monuments rescued from various parts of the now Crapsack World.
    • The 'Ministry of Energy' regulates fuel and electricity consumption throughout Britain.
  • Granola Girl: Miriam.
    • Also Jasper, though he's male.
  • Gray and Grey Morality: The government and the "Fishes" are equally as radical and dangerous.
  • Hellhole Prison: Bexhill has been converted into basically a post-modern concentration camp.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Julian is played by Julianne Moore.
  • High Concept: What would the world be like after 20 years of no children being born? Despite falling under High Concept, that didn't stop the movie receiving showers of praise.
  • Infant Immortality: Played with in its aversion. As the film begins, we learn that the youngest person on Earth had just died. Everyone is in tears because of this. He was a mere babe of 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours, and 8 minutes old.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted in two cases. During an attack by the Fishes, Julian is shot in the throat and bleeds out. Theo is shot in the stomach by Luke and lasts a few hours before finally dying in the boat well out of the city.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Syd looks like a good guy with some rough edges at first, but is later revealed to be a heartless opportunist.
  • Jitter Cam: The film uses handheld cameras extensively, and often in concert with lengthy tracking shots.
  • Just Before the End: With no babies being born, humanity is doomed, but it will still be some time before everyone dies. The world responds by descending into nationalistic, nihlistic mayhem.
  • Leave the Camera Running: For at least 15 minutes as Theo guides Kee and the newborn through the warzone.
  • Leitmotif: Whenever a character dies, a ringing sound akin to tinnitus is heard.
  • The Load: Miriam means well, but she's hopelessly out of her depth and has a tendency to lock up and start praying whenever things get intense. That, or completely panic. She does however redeem herself with her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Kee ("key" meaning the most important thing, or the thing that opens a previously locked door).
    • Theo Faron is Greek for "The God of the Lighthouses".
  • Mood Whiplash: Frequently. Interrupting a light scene with horrible violence and death is a favorite.
  • Moral Myopia: Patric's reaction to Theo inadvertently killing the other assassin. Could be because the kid was so young, and young people are held up to a deity status in a society with no future. Also, it was his cousin.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Zig-Zagged.
    • Averted in that, despite all of the obvious parallels between Britain's authoritarian government and that of Nazi Germany (see Does This Remind You of Anything? above), the film intentionally avoids showing the ruling political figures in any great detail-which means that there's no Strawman Political group to blame for all the chaos. The dystopian setting is made all the more chilling by the fact that the British soldiers are virtually indistinguishable from the British military circa 2006.
    • ...But also played straight in that no matter what uniforms they're wearing, they're still rounding up minorities, locking them in ruined cities that have been converted into ghettoes, and exterminating them. Not to mention the use of The Libertines' "Arbeit Macht Frei" in conjunction with images of the government executing people. The intended message is also a criticism of present right-wing anti-immigration hysteria, though.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • "What about Liverpool?"
    • "That thing in Madrid was a real blow for art." "Not to mention people."
    • "Were your parents in New York when it happened?" It was a nuclear explosion if the quick shots of scenes from a government propaganda film are to be believed.
  • The Oner: Part of the visceral thrill of the film is the way many action scenes are filmed in long, continuous takes that make it seem like the viewer is inside the scene. The three longest shots make up about 1/8th of the film's running time.
  • Painting the Medium: As Theo runs through a bus filled with people, someone gets hit with a bullet, making blood splatter onto the camera.
    • This little touch was actually an accident. After the take, the director saw the blood on the lens and thought they'd have to reshoot the whole absurdly long monster of a shot, but Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, the cinematographer said "But that's fucking brilliant, leave it!" and it made the cut.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: A compound example - the film includes a shot of a woman wailing while holding her dying son in her arms, which was a Shout-Out to a similar photograph taken in the Balkans, which was itself an obvious allusion to the Piéta.
  • Psycho for Hire: Patric.
  • Racist Grandma: Courtesy of Bilingual Bonus. When Theo is on his way to visit Jasper, he walks past a holding cell with some refugees of various races detained within. An elderly German detainee can be seen complaining about being detained alongside some black detainees.
  • Quick Nip: Theo, constantly.
  • Real is Grey: It's Britain in winter. What do you expect?
  • Sacrificial Lamb: One of the highest-billed stars Julianne Moore dies 25 minutes into the movie, with maybe 10 minutes of screen time.
  • Scenery Gorn: The desolate hellscape of city.
  • Shout-Out: Two serious ones at the camp at Bexhill.
    • When Theo is dining with his cousin Nigel, Pablo Picasso's painting 'Guernica' hangs on the wall behind them.
    • There is a pig-shaped balloon floating over the Battersea power station (which has been turned into a museum). It's a reference to the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals.
    • Battersea Power station being turned into an art gallery is itself a shout out to fellow power station Bankside, slightly down river, which is now the Tate Modern (which provided the internal set for the scene where Theo entered the gallery).
    • Quietus, the state-sponsored suicide drug, is named for a section of the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet, in which Hamlet speaks favorably of suicide (''But who would bear the whips and scorns of time ... when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?").
  • Smoking Is Cool: Used as a form of lazy suicide.
    • Interesting fact: Although Theo tries to smoke several times over the course of the film, he is never allowed to finish a cigarette.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Continually switching both sides of the middle point.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: Most of the setting is on the gritty side.
  • Stealth Pun: Theo's last act in the film is to lead the girl to the buoy.
  • Sterility Plague: This trope forms the basic premise of the movie. Much like a George A. Romero film, it isn't explained what exactly caused it-it's strongly implied to be a mystery in-universe too-leaving the director free to focus on the story instead of padding the film with exposition.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: A dark example: "The World Has Collapsed: Only Britain Soldiers On"
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: In keeping with the film's steadfast aversion of Death Is Dramatic, most deaths meet this description.
  • Technical Pacifist: Theo bashes a couple of heads in self-defense (with a car door and car battery, respectively), but not once during the course of the film does he ever pick up a gun.
    • Not so much Technical Pacifist as just trying to survive. At no point does he even have an opportunity to arm himself, anyway.
      • Not quite true. At the least, he passes plenty of dead guys with discarded weapons he could've picked up.
  • A Truce While We Gawk: At the climax of the film.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Done deliberately subtly.
    • Cars, for example, may look ordinary at first glance, but are more unfamiliar upon closer inspection. They are also equipped with hi-tech heads-up displays (e.g. projecting the speedometer or warning notices onto the windscreen).
    • London buses carry scrolling holographic adverts on the side, contrasting with the rickshaws now present on London's streets.
    • Adverts in the street reveal human organs can now be legally purchased on 'The British Organ Market'.
    • Various stalls throughout London (such as that of the 'Digital Evening Standard') use alternating digital screens to advertise.
    • Miniaturization and versatility of mobile communication devices and portable computers has also advanced considerably since the 2000s. The juxtaposition of mildly futuristic technology and slowly decaying public infrastructure gives the setting an almost Post Cyber Punk feel.
    • Some of the in-universe advertising and tech can be glimpsed in this featurette.
  • Third-Person Person: Syd doesn't know why they want to get inside the camps. Syd doesn't want to know. Syd doesn't care.
  • Unlikely Hero: Theo. He begins the movie as an incredibly apathetic bureaucrat, feeling nothing about the world around him. However, throughout the film he is shown to be genuinely kindhearted, which distinguishes him from so many post/pre-apocalyptic story protagonists.
  • Unsafe Haven: The thousands of refugees flocking to Britain come to realise this when they are rounded up and put in concentration camps.
    • Argentina (the only other nation implied to be functioning) can be seen as one, with 'Baby Diego' being stabbed outside a bar in Buenos Aires simply for refusing to sign an autograph.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: We don't know why mass infertility happened. The director Alfonso Cuaron even stated that he doesn't like backstories in his movies.
  • Urban Segregation: Although most of 2027 London appears far scruffier and more ramshackle than present-times, there are clearly enclaves within the city where a gentrified lifestyle still exists-although these once-public areas are clearly now highly restricted. When Theo travels in a Rolls Royce to visit Nigel at Battersea, he goes through a check-point clearance gate at Admiralty Arch and travels down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. During the journey, it appears as if the area around the Palace, St. James' Park and Green Park is physically unchanged, although it has now become an exclusive gated enclave where people relax in the parks, walk dogs (as well as other more exotic animals) and listen to a brass band play whilst the Household Cavalry process by.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Syd.
    Jasper: Make sure you call him a 'fascist pig'.
  • Wave O Babies: Inverted.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Fishes. And especially Luke. They want to eliminate Britain's horrible oppression of refugees. Their solution? Use Kee's newborn baby as a trump card. The Fishes certainly don't object to killing whomever gets in their way-including their own leader.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: Deliberately invoked. There is the odd vague suggestion of the second coming. Kee jokes that she's a virgin mother, but admits that she doesn't know who the father is. Since we don't know the identity of the father it can be assigned to "God". Later in the film during the long take there is a lot of religious suggestion in the peoples' reactions to the child. You can take the idea as merely cultural context (the child literally represents the salvation of all mankind, how else do you think people would react?) or as a genuine possible interpretation.
    • Also Theo as surrogate father and protector (i.e. Joseph) And his switch to wearing sandals halfway through.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Froley if it's a boy, Bazooka if it's a girl. Though she finally settles on Dylan, to honor Theo's dead son.
  • World Half Empty: The human race has lost its source of new life. All nations in the world have plunged into mayhem, save for Britain, now under the oppressive heel of an authoritarian state. Refugees are everywhere, and the last hope for humanity may well go into the wrong hands.

Alternative Title(s):

Children Of Men