Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

July 08, 2007

A Few Good Deaths

*There's a spoiler warning on this site already, but please, please don't read this if you haven't yet seen Children of Men.

Rewatching Children of Men on DVD, I realized one of the most powerful aspects of the story: its deaths.

Lots of movies have characters who sacrifice themselves--sometimes even the protagonist does so--or are collateral damage in the battle that is the story. But when I finally saw this movie a second time, I really saw it for the simple, elegant story it is: there's something worth protecting, there's a journey to safety, and there's the many people along the journey who throw themselves (literally and figuratively) in front of the precious cargo to protect it, in the hope that something good will come of it someday. Sound familiar?

There is such a thing as a good death; that's clear from many movies. But I'm hard-pressed to think of another contemporary film structured around the relentless execution of characters we care about, and that doesn't feel remotely exploitative. It works here because the stakes are so damn high, the price for "success" must be absolutely brutal. For me, the lesson is: we don't have to protect our characters. For them, as for many people, a death in service of a cause is preferable to a wasted life.



Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

Good observation. Almost as if the old has to be torn down to make way for the new.

8:56 a.m.  
Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

I like Children of Men even more after your analysis, Jennica. Julianne Moore's death was a real surprise, and one of the most dramatic stage exits I've seen in a while. I think her last line of dialogue was to "protect the girl", or something along those lines, before she got shot.

1:34 p.m.  

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