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Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation Essay

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2022

“Children of Men” is a 2006 film directed and written by Alfonso Cuarón, based on a book of the same name by P.D. James. The story is set in 2027, in a dystopian England in which humans have become completely infertile. England is one of the last remaining civilizations that attracts immigrants mistreated by a police state that holds them in refugee camps. The story follows Theo Faron, who becomes caught in a mission to take a woman named Kee to the coast, as she is secretly the only pregnant woman known to exist. The world presented by Cuarón is incredibly grim and desolate, and he convinces the viewer of total hopelessness through cinematic effects and the narrative of the film itself. Despite this, Children of Men is a distinct portrayal of hope, in spite of the ruthless and brutal world that suppresses it.

The film does not present hope in a religious sense, but by making repeated references to religious iconography and sentiments, it is able to portray fragments of hope in a visual sense. Initially, Cuarón depicts a hopeless world through contemporary and even familiar references (Jacobson, 2020). These include the visual depiction of the refugee camps, which are similar in design to real places such as Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison. Much of the camerawork is reflective of cinema verite stylization, dizzying documentary-like cinematography that was not dissimilar to footage of the Iraq War at the time of the film’s release. A religious reference is made in a scene where a mother holds her dead son, which is reminiscent of a photograph from the Balkans, which itself is an allusion to a Michaelangelo sculpture of Mary holding Jesus.

The film is evocative of current-day symbolism through these creative choices by Cuarón, and although they are initial tools that depict a world without hope, they are later used to find it in the same world. The film ends with Sanskrit words being shown on screen; they read “Shantih Shantih Shantih.” The phrase means peace and is commonly found at the start and end of Hindu prayer. Though the film does not uphold religion as the superior surface of hope, it alludes to religion as a narrative device that represents hope. This is seen in many references, such as groups that oppose the government and support the immigrants being called Fishes and the revelation of Kee’s pregnancy occurs in a barn. More important than recognizing the references is observing their progression of representing the lack of hope to renewed hope, the same way that rebirth occurs after violence in religious motifs.

Children of Men is a work that can be revisited often due to its merge of the political climate and human condition of hope. The state of political unrest and even violence is relatable in any decade, which is a common discussion point from political critics of the film. They argue that the film does not create a world like many dystopian films do but simply reference the one we live in with obvious exaggeration. The xenophobic nature of many characters persists in the current political climate, from civilians and politicians alike. As such, many viewers may continue to wonder whether Children of Men is simply an expanded fiction based on the darkest aspects of our reality or a glimpse into the true human and moral degradation that is possible. Both options sound likely and unacceptable, and while the viewer does not find a solution or answer in work, the chance for a second hope has been there from the start.

Works Cited

Jacobson, Gavin. NewStatesman, 2020.

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IvyPanda. (2022, August 17). Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation. https://ivypanda.com/essays/children-of-men-hope-after-political-and-moral-degradation/

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"Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation." IvyPanda, 17 Aug. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/children-of-men-hope-after-political-and-moral-degradation/.

1. IvyPanda. "Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation." August 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/children-of-men-hope-after-political-and-moral-degradation/.


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IvyPanda. "Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation." August 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/children-of-men-hope-after-political-and-moral-degradation/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation." August 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/children-of-men-hope-after-political-and-moral-degradation/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Children of Men: Hope After Political and Moral Degradation'. 17 August.

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