Readers of P. D. James’s novel Children of Men won’t be prepared for the emotional breadth of the film version by Alfonso Cuarón. 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 safe passage for a young refugee (or “fugee”) named Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), who has become pregnant.