Single Person’s Movie: Children of Men

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch.

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Children of Men [starting @ 10:30 p.m. on HBO2]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: We recently caught an interview with Clive Owen where he explained—and we’re paraphrasing—that even if a movie has a great director, cast, crew and script, making it all gel into something grand requires an indefinable spark; a certain je ne sais quoi. Presumably he was preparing everyone for this weekend’s sure-to-be dud The International, a movie surprisingly overloaded with talent both in front of the camera (Mr. Owen and co-star Naomi Watts) and behind (Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer). But, on the flip side, he could have just as easily been referring to Children of Men. Despite featuring exceptional people littered all over its IMDb page, there is something else entirely that makes the 2006 film excel. It’s a feeling we can’t really put into words, other than to say that when you watch Children of Men, you immediately realize you are witnessing one of the greatest motion pictures ever produced. Apologies for the hyperbole; you could say we just really love this movie.

The shame of it all is that Children of Men is one of those films that just fell through the cracks—despite mostly strong reviews, its box office was underwhelming and awards recognition was nonexistent. Perhaps, like Revolutionary Road, it was just too difficult and unsettling for the masses to put their weight behind. While the premise isn’t much deeper than an episode of The Twilight Zone—at some point in the near future, women will become infertile for an unexplained reason, putting humanity on the local train to extinction—the execution is frighteningly believable and sadly realistic. Terrorist attacks have leveled most of the major cities; the world economy is destroyed; the separation between the rich and poor is as wide as the Grand Canyon; and immigrants are rounded up and put into ghettos. There are at least five times during Children of Men when you may burst into tears over something happening on screen. You may even tear up if you watch the trailer. Suffice it to say, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, this is not.

And, at the center of it all is Clive Owen. He’s the antihero; the unwilling everyman who gets thrown into a situation that, at first, he isn’t necessarily very interested in. If George Clooney is our version of Cary Grant, then consider Mr. Owen this decade’s Humphrey Bogart, albeit way better-looking and English.

When we’ll probably fall asleep: From a technical standpoint, the hallmarks of Children of Men are the minutes-long tracking shots that spread throughout the film. Director Alfonso Cuarón and his cinematographer, the brilliant Emmanuel Lubezki, pretty much rewrite the laws of film with what they do here. Of course everyone talks about the scene when Julianne Moore … well, we won’t spoil it on the chance you haven’t seen it. But we’ll clearly stay awake to see that scene. Most likely, we’ll make it all the way to 12:15 a.m., about 105 minutes into the film, when Mr. Owen must risk life and limb to save the last baby on earth. Roughly seven minutes in length, this scene is actually two different shots digitally spliced together to make it appear uncut. But, we’ll let the sleight of hand trickery go just this once. After all, Mr. Cuarón created such an exceptional film that he’s allowed to take a shortcut.

Single Person’s Movie: Children of Men