Magazine article The Christian Century

Rumors of a Birth

Magazine article The Christian Century

Rumors of a Birth

Article excerpt

READERS OF P. D. James's novel Children of Men won't e prepared for the emotional breadth of the film version by Alfonso Cuaron. Like most dystopian stories, the book is relentlessly grim, icy and pedantic. Set 20 years in the future in a fascist England that barricades its borders and treats refugees like prisoners of war, the film posits a world in which, for obscure reasons, no children have been born in nearly two decades. The youngest member of the human race--still known as Baby Diego--has just been killed in a bar fight at the age of 18, prompting mass outbreaks of grief.

Clive Owen plays Theo, who was an activist in his youth but buried his political passions after he lost his child in a flu pandemic. Now he's drawn back in when the child's mother, Julian (Julianne Moore), now a member of a group known as the Fishes, asks him to provide sate passage for a young refugee (or "fugee") named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who has become pregnant.

When Julian is killed in an ambush and Theo realizes that the Fishes want to use the baby to rouse popular support for "the uprising," a coup against the government, he escapes with Kee and Miriam (Pam Ferris), a onetime midwife who has been nursing Kee. His mission is to get them sanctuary with a group called the Human Project, which no one has actually seen.

In James's scheme, Kee is the "key" to the future of humanity. Cuaron underscores the idea that she is also an earthbound version of the Virgin Mary, carrying the miracle child of an unseen father (she isn't sure of his identity) whose birth will change the world. She is in constant danger, both from an oppressive government that would never allow a refugee (and a woman of color) to raise the first child born in 18 years and from opportunist insurgents like the Fishes. But Kee also draws the instinctual protective sympathy of the poor and disenfranchised, like the gypsy woman Marichka (Oana Pellea), who risks her own life to get Theo and Kee off the island into waters reportedly patrolled by the Human Project. When, at the film's climax, the Fishes stage their uprising outside the walls of a coastal prison, Theo guides Kee through the besieged ruins of an apartment building and everyone who sees her draws back in wonder. …

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