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How 2006’s ‘Children of Men’ Summed Up 2016

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Children of Men
 (Mary Evans/Universal Studios/Everett Collection)

 

Upon its 2006 release, Children of Men—based on a 1992 P.D. James novel—was a flop at the box office. (It earned just under $70 million worldwide, a particularly damning amount for a film that cost $76 million.) It was nominated for three Oscars, but failed to win any. While a critical favorite, reviews often focused on it as a technical achievement. Yet its reputation has only grown in the decade since its release. It is a movie that time has not forgotten. Indeed, it may speak directly to the moment we’re currently living in.

Abraham Reisman certainly argues it is. He has taken an extended look at the film for New York magazine. Reisman writes that Children of Men, about a dystopia in which women can no longer have babies, offers:

“… a massive refugee crisis, which has in turn led an immigrant-fearing and authoritarian U.K. to close its borders to outsiders who seek its shores. Terrorist attacks in European capitals are just routine items in the news crawl. The world stands on the brink, and no one has any clear idea of what can be done. The film, in hindsight, seems like a documentary about a future that, in 2016, finally arrived.”

Reisman discusses the film with its director and co-screenwriter Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón’s career was brutally derailed by the financial failure, as his next film didn’t reach theaters until 2013. (He bounced back with a vengeance, as Gravity earned seven Oscars including best director and earned more than 10 times the take of Children of Men.)

Children of Men
Actor Clive Owen (R) and director Alfonso Cuaron attend a photocall for the film “Children of Men”. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 

Cuarón had no intention of taking on the project about a future cataclysm until 9/11 happened. Then he and writing partner Tim Sexton took the novel’s premise—but little else from it, as Cuarón insists he’s never read it. They proceeded to travel to New York, Milan, and London on a research trip in an attempt to capture what might await in the new century for this film set in 2027. Indeed, Cuarón notes that while Children of Men is now praised for capturing where the world was headed, even at the time it was more a reporting of global events than a feat of imagination. Pressed for the movie’s meaning, Cuarón says simply, “What’s really relevant now is to stop being complacent.”

To read more about the prescient film (and its notoriously difficult production), click here. Watch the trailer below.