My sons were agreeably stunned by Children of Men last night — they both were going on and on about what a mindblower it was, about the awesome production design and the visual innovation, etc. — but the general crowd was not in the same place. You could feel it plain as day. They were not the least bit charmed or aroused — you could tell by their shoulder-shrugging expressions and murmurings as we all shuffled out of the theatre.
I think it’s because Children of Men delivers a kind of atmospheric nightmare that hits too close to home. It portrays a kind of devolved-degenerated future that many of us fear is possibly/probably in the cards, and a lot of us don’t want to deal with. At all.
It’s like what Alan Arkin said to Time magazine a while back, to wit: “We’ve pushed the buttons too far. We’ve been greedy and selfish. Everybody knows what we’ve done to the rivers and the oceans; the fact that there’s only 35 years’ worth of fish in the oceans; the fact that the polar ice caps are melting. I think that right under the surface of everybody’s consciousness is the full understanding that we’re in for a really tough ride and everybody is really afraid to face it.”
And what that woman I spoke to on a plane last summer said when I showed her read David Denby‘s New Yorker review of An Inconvenient Truth (“detailed, deep-layered, vivid, and terrifying…every school, college, and church group, and everyone else beyond the sway of General Motors, ExxonMobil, and the White House should see this movie”). She read it, handed me the magazine, and said with a chuckle, her eyes dropping to her lap, “Some people aren’t comfortable hearing about this.”
The curious thing, I told her, is that Truth is touching and never boring. She didn’t disagree with the urgency of the Gore’s message, but we both knew what she meant when she said “people.” It seemed obvious she considered Davis Guggen- heim’s film a bringer of unpleasant vibes.