Now this is a nativity story. Catherine Hardwicke’s dramatization of Jesus’ birth, released just before this, failed because the movie lacked imagination. But Children of Men, which is also about a miraculous pregnancy, overflows with it. Based on the book by P.D. James, Children of Men envisions a future, circa 2027, that has seen 18 years of worldwide infertility. Fear of extinction has led to anarchy, to the point that England has walled itself off as a police state (immigrants are routinely caged). Trying to keep his head down in this dystopia is Theo (Clive Owen), but that becomes difficult when his former lover (Julianne Moore), now an underground activist, enlists his help in protecting a secret: a young woman (Clare-Hope Ashitey) who is somehow with child. Director Alfonso Cuaron gives this futuristic fantasy a grim, matter-of-fact realism, as well as a sense of horror that is both ghostly (an abandoned elementary school) and shocking (the violence is appropriately abrupt).
Without giving too much away, I can say there also is a sense of hope, which is what the first Christmas story is mostly about. Children of Men captures this hopefulness – as well as the sense of urgency and terror that must have been part of Mary and Joseph’s experience – better than any movie I’ve ever seen.