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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Set amid extreme violence and social unrest, the film is about hope for the future. It has mixed messages: Most people aren't to be trusted and can easily turn on you because of greed, but kind people do exist. It's virtuous to sacrifice your own life for the greater good. Children are precious gifts.
Positive Role Models
Most characters are portrayed as violent and untrustworthy, including two people who double-cross the leads for their own greed or beliefs. But a handful of helpers sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Kee shows incredible strength and courage as a woman who crosses a war zone while pregnant, giving birth, and carrying a newborn. Theo begins the film only helping Kee for money, but he soon becomes her most reliable protector. Supporting characters like Jasper and Julian also guide Kee to safety.
Mexican filmmakers behind the camera include writer-director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The movie is set in the United Kingdom, and the on-screen cast is majority White, including main character Theo (Clive Owen). But the other main character, Kee, is played by English actor Clare-Hope Ashitey, who's of Ghanaian descent. Women have strong roles, such as an activist leader, but they do fall into traditional gender norms as being fiercely protective and nurturing. In smaller roles, Luke is played by Nigerian English actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, and "Baby" Diego is played by Argentinian actor Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi. But Roma character Marichka is played by Oana Pellea, who's Romanian -- unrelated to Roma ancestry, which has roots in Punjab, India. Several supporting characters are over age 50, including Michael Caine's Jasper and Pam Ferris' Miriam. Brief stereotyping when a little person and Chinese refugees (who shout in Mandarin) appear in scenes meant to be foreign and frightening, and the film's only wheelchair user is in a coma and (spoiler alert!) gets euthanized by a non-disabled character, portrayed as a mercy -- though the immediate alternative is capture and death by shooting.
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Violence & Scariness
Realistic graphic violence includes a car chase and intense battle scenes filled with gunfire and shelling explosions, bloody amputated bodies, execution-style killings with guns, dead bodies, rows of body bags, a pile of charred horse remains, and gory one-on-one fighting. Armed law enforcement officials lock refugees into cages and send them into death camps. A key character uses a fictional euthanasia drug to allow a loved one to die peacefully (off-screen). A shaky handheld camera and several surprise killings that come without warning increase the film's sense of peril and intensity. There's blood, especially when a key character suffers a fatal gunshot wound, but the film avoids being cartoonishly gory and is less gruesome than many horror films.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Naked breasts briefly visible in a non-sexual context. Brief scene shows a glimpse of a vagina and a baby being born. Two characters discuss their past romantic relationship.
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Frequent use of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters also say "ass," "a--hole," "wanker," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation. A Roma character is referred to as a "gypsy" a couple of times.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main character frequently drinks and smokes cigarettes, especially when upset (implied to be an unhealthy coping mechanism). Another key character grows, smokes, and sells marijuana. In background scenes, minor characters often smoke and drink. A fictional euthanasia drug called "Quietus" is advertised in the film and used by an important character to allow a loved one to die peacefully.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Children of Men is a dystopian drama based on the same-named novel by P.D. James. It has intense violence, including a car chase, battle scenes with gunfire and shelling explosions, execution-style killings, refugees locked up in cages, dead bodies, charred horse remains, and death camps. A key character uses a fictional euthanasia drug to allow a loved one to die peacefully (off-screen). A main character copes when upset by drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes, while a positive supporting character grows and smokes marijuana. Bare breasts appear in a non-sexual context, as does a graphic birthing scene -- both are brief. The film has diversity, including Mexican filmmakers behind the camera -- writer-director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki -- plus Black characters, women, and actors over age 50 in important roles. But there's brief stereotyping when a little person and Chinese refugees (who shout in Mandarin) appear in scenes meant to be foreign and frightening, and the film's only wheelchair user is in a coma and has no agency. Most characters in the film are violent and untrustworthy, but a handful of positive role models include courageous and protective people who sacrifice their own lives to help save humanity. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Working from a screenplay he co-wrote (based on P.D. James' novel), director Alfonso Cuarón paints a gritty, paranoid, and occasionally hopeful picture. Children of Men draws on modern anxieties about war, terrorism, immigration, race, class, and technology. The characters' struggle to reach The Human Project includes some of the most gripping filmmaking in recent memory, though it does use a lot of violence and death to get its message across. Cuarón's documentary-style camera work brings viewers right into this nail-biting action.
Caine's character is a bright spot -- cheerful and passionate, enjoying food, music, and occasional company with heartfelt glee (helped along, perhaps, by the large quantities of marijuana that he smokes). And the movie's abrupt ending, while disorienting at first, offers relief from the film's intensity.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.