The year is 2027 and Planet Earth has seen better days. The news everyone is talking about is that the youngest person alive, eighteen-year-old Baby Diego, has been murdered in a brawl, and yet more hope is lost for the future of the human race. Theodore Faron (Clive Owen) isn't much interested as he goes to a London coffee shop for some refreshment to take away, but almost everyone else is despondently watching the television screens; Theo pushes his way in, buys his coffee and pushes his way out, but as he walks down the street he pauses. Suddenly a terrorist bomb is set off in the building he has just left, leaving him shaken, so that when he gets into work he asks for the day off, which he receives. He heads out of the city to see his old friend Jasper (Michael Caine), but fate has other plans for him...
Children of Men was loosely adapted from the P.D. James novel, a rare work in the science fiction genre, by director Alfonso Cuarón with the help of Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. Children of Men is the title, as opposed to Children of God, as all traces of a loving deity have been wiped from this bleak world sculpted by fallible humanity that is so vivdly created here. It's to the credit of the filmmakers that the reality of the situation is never in doubt - the production design by Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland is quite superb, to offer one example - yet thematically there's nothing to stop the story being a dry religious parable.
So gloomy is the film that the normally dour Clive Owen has found his perfect surroundings here, as the cynical loner, beaten down by a miserable life and barely a hint of a smile passing over his features. The world around him is headed to damnation, as a child has not been born for nearly twenty years and social unrest, to put it mildly, is the order of the day. Britain's media proudly proclaims that this nation soldiers on alone amongst the others, where hardline governments and widespread terrorism have brought society to its knees, but really the United Kingdom is little better, with, as we see in the opening scene, bombs set off and immigration strictly illegal.
Not that this stops refugees (or "fugees" as they're nicknamed) from manfully trying to enter the country, and they seem to spend most of their time once they reach it standing in cages. However, the film is on the immigrants' side, unusual for the political climate in which it was made, seeming to say, hey, we're all in this together so we'd better forget our differences and make a better world - essentially, why can't we all get along? Not that this bothers the emotionally numb Theo, who would rather get high with award-winning cartoonist Jasper in his country retreat. The reason he gives for having the day off is that he's upset over the death of Diego, as if the real reason, that he was nearly blown up, is so commonplace that nobody would bat an eyelid.
It can't go on like this, and Theo is contacted (i.e. practically kidnapped) by his ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who asks him to secure transit papers from his brother (Danny Huston), an official. This leads Theo into a confusion of freedom fighters and clamping down authorities, but it's the woman that the papers are needed for who is the important aspect. She is Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), and miracle of miracles, she is pregnant. She has to leave the country for safety before those higher up grow aware of her existence and take her and her baby into custody. The parallels with the Christian tale of the baby Jesus are variable but obvious, as Kee doesn't know who the father is and the child represents God giving the world a representative of hope, to prove that life will indeed go on (if we don't understand this, people exclaim "Jesus Christ!" when they clap eyes on the infant, or cross themselves). Yet in spite of all this, the film has been so careful to create its doomed Earth that we don't see how one tiny baby could make much of a difference. Music by John Tavener.