Script – Children of Men by Alfonso Cuarón and Timothy J. Sexton
Logline: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea, where her child’s birth may help scientists save the future of humankind.
I can remember the first time I saw this movie. I went into it not knowing what to expect.
One of you mentioned on our forums the type of “over the shoulder” directing that kept us on the edge of our seats, and instantly reminded me of how powerful some of the sequences were in this film.
It’s also a brilliant example of how directing can greatly enhance writing, and more importantly the writer’s vision.
But did this script need the help? Or was it written in such a way that the director’s job was easy?
1.) Can we visualize the description?
I love this part right from page one:
Theo is a veteran of hopelessness.
That alone could have sufficed for the description of our main character. The other stuff is the metaphorical icing on the cake.
I also want to take a second to analyze this scene.
Usually I’m anti the whole news report exposition thing, but I think it works here.
Not because we’re getting an explanation of what’s going on, but we’re taking an event, the death of Baby Diego, and seeing the general public’s reaction to it.
This world has no babies, and so the human race is dying. Baby Deigo’s death was just another slap in the face for these folks. He was the most famous person in the world because he was the YOUNGEST person in the world.
Then BOOM, a bomb goes off in the coffee shop once Theo leaves.
Not only is the world a shitty place to live, but it’s an unstable place as well.
More Good Description:
Page 12 – …it’s Theo, shaking out the cobwebs, his head foggier than London. (Theo just woke up.)
Page 44 – English rain – Steady. Cold. Bone moistening.
Page 117 – Guardian angels working overtime…(talking about Theo avoiding gunfire.)
Page 123 – Heavy machinery of war silenced by the cries of a baby.
This last one I really liked, maybe because I saw it and am envisioning that scene in my mind as I read, but think about it. This is the FIRST baby in 20 years or so. Some of these soldiers probably never saw one in real life.
The fact that this completely stuns everyone is an awesome visual, and with that one line there’s no need for an over explanation of how everyone reacts.
Few things I didn’t care for.
Page 15 – There’s an unfilmable that is the BAD kind we warn about.
He does not notice, reading about a boy who got himself locked inside a vampire’s room.
Theo’s reading Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Probably my second favorite King story after the whole Dark Tower journey.
That’s fine to have him reading, and it can even be that book, but talking about WHAT part he’s on in a completely unrelated story is kind of silly.
(***Warning! List INCOMING!)
1.) What happens if the reader has never read that book? It’s confusing.
2.) What does that add to give an actor direction?
It’s more like a shout out saying, “I like this book and you should read it,” than good description. If he’s so into the book he doesn’t notice people following him suspiciously, say so, but the description should work REGARDLESS of what book’s in his hand.
This is also usually a problem for amateurs when they mention particular songs playing in a scene. Unless it’s relevant to the plot, best to leave personal preferences out, unless you’re also doing the score for your movie.
Page 119 – The ending action.
It was hard to follow, especially once the Fishes took Kee and they themselves broke into two groups fleeing the soldiers.
(I’m still unclear on who made it, and who didn’t.)
The part on 119 particularly though was Theo looking for Kee and the baby. It read something like:
He goes up the stairs and wonders where to go.
A baby cries down the hall.
He turns and runs to it.
Couldn’t there be more panic built in? The script did a good job earlier on of making situations panic packed, but this one just felt like things were running too long so let’s just be done with it.
Taking into consideration what Theo lost, it should be one of the biggest parts of the movie with him going into a full on meltdown.
(He should be worried about where the baby is and if she’s alive, so WE’RE worried about the same thing.)
8 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Other than taking a few moments to figure out what (OFF) next to a character’s name meant (off screen), everything else read fine.
We had a few “we see” moments, but not enough to make a dent.
Watch the page length though for those of us writing specs.
This clocked in at 128, which is a tad long. Readers will sigh at it, and maybe even set it aside to be forgotten in the land of Scripts That Never Will Be.
9 out of 10 pages.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Dialogue was good.
The one thing I didn’t like was the exposition on page 12 in the form of a newscast.
It was talking about what was going on in the US during this timeframe.
In fact the writers kept trying to tell us what was going on in the States. It was kind of pointless, since the main story was about things in London, and there wasn’t close to enough time to follow through on the US storyline.
Felt like a cheap ploy to get a large consumer base to be interested.
“Look, we’re mentioning what happened to you guys too!”
One other minor bad spot that supports this is on page 47.
There Tom tells Theo he talks funny, and tries to hint at some exposition about how the US collapsed.
Again, not enough time so stick to the main story.
Now for the Good.
There was a lot of it, and Theo, Kee, and Miriam were set up especially well.
Theo talked short and depressing.
Kee had her slang that made her character more three dimensional.
Miriam was all hippy, yoga talk.
Page 27 – On top of watching the second greatest Beatles movie ever (and also the greatest scene from A Hard Days Night) the back and forth with Theo and Luke sets up his character, and also gets right to the point.
Not a lot of explanation about the hoops he had to jump through to get the exit visas, and no long back and forth on what they’re going to do about it since it’s a joint visa.
(*SIDENOTE* Speaking of A Hard Days Night, check out how successful that movie was. Was filmed for peanuts, but made a KILLING at the box office. Link talks about it.)
Page 43 – Great set up of Theo’s point of view on life versus Miriam’s.
All is well.
She is dead.
All is well. She died fulfilling her duty.
Whatever you choose to believe.
Again, a lot of it was good, and kept short.
I apologize that I couldn’t copy and paste better examples, but they’re there. (If you don’t believe me, read the script and tell me where I’m wrong.)
Few other exposition spots where Julian talks about how she and Theo met, their activism, etc. but I think this helps because it let’s us know Theo is deep down a good guy, we just wonder if he has the stuff needed to become the idealist he once was.
8 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
The dynamic scenes set up makes this a yes.
Most importantly the scenes with characters escaping danger, those were a page turner even when I knew what was coming.
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
Not only did the writers create a unique world, they gave it a fantastic back-story.
Most of the time Roy and I refer to giving characters depth, but we should often consider our setting as a character too.
Not only is this a world without children, it’s a depressing world where folks are just waiting for the inevitable demise to come.
Realistic baby dolls so people can “pretend” to have children.
“Last one to tie turn out the lights” graffiti.
Fishes, and other various rebel factions fighting the oppressive government.
ALL of it adds to the world we’re in. This script could easily be a lesson on depth of setting.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
2035 AD London, where humans have stopped reproducing.
I’ve already mentioned the opening scene as not only drawing me in, but using a newscast and character reactions (or in Theo’s case lack of reaction) and then pairing it with an explosive (literally) event.
Another good case of seeing how the first two pages of a script should draw us in.
Little background, and jumping right to the plot.
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
The next part was probably the only boring part in the script.
I don’t like it probably because it gives us too much exposition and background both about Theo and his relationship with Jasper, and the revolt filled world they’re living in.
The one saving grace is that we get our inciting incident right on page 15 where Theo is kidnapped by the Fishes and he’s thrown back into the world of idealism and overturning oppression.
9 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
The rest was all good.
One note I want to make is that there’s a really cool scene where folks go to the Quietus facility to be giving drugs and drift off to their deaths. (Not in the film.)
It’s a really cool planetarium type place which both demonstrates those giving up hope, but also there’s the government control aspect when one old fella refuses to drink the tainted Kool-Aid.
This would have been a PERFECT way to initially set up Jasper, as Janice goes there to die, being that she no longer wants to be a burden to her husband.
It also would have made more sense since we wouldn’t have to see the countryside twice (fake bushes and all) AND Janice dying makes Jasper a much more powerful character later on.
I was reminded as I read, how much I LOVE that scene of them escaping the farm house.
That clip doesn’t really do it justice as Theo sneaking in and around the house has us on the edge of our seats the entire time.
In the film we feel like we’re behind him, wanting to shush him, or hold our breath every time someone comes or we make a noise.
Also, this is another great example of how the directing helped out. We felt like were right in the car with the main trio as they make their escape.
On top of having a good inciting incident we also have a great midpoint.
On page 50 Kee reveals to Theo that she’s pregnant. Julian said to only trust him, and he goes from only caring about his wallowing, to seeing that small sliver of world hope which he’s willing to be responsible for.
After the car chase scene things keep building up, which is exactly the direction we should be going with our own stories.
Heading to Jasper’s house, which again was more powerful in the script because of earlier Janice’s death, Jasper is a complete wreck, and is reborn when he sees Kee’s condition.
(I think this was okay in the film, but an AWESOME transformation in the script on page 67.)
The Fishes never show up at Jasper’s house, which I think is a point the film did better. Instead the group runs across No Man’s Land and Jasper is attacked by dogs that patrol the fenced area.
Syd still has a decent sized part, and getting into Bexhill is pretty much the same.
Miriam stays alive a lot longer which was both good and bad.
A.) It made more sense for the story to have her help deliver the baby. I always found the birth to be a bit far fetched in such a filthy environment and Theo flying solo.
B.) Although it made more sense, the film does make her death more powerful since we see the true nature of this “refugee” camp.
Ending is the same for the most part, except instead of Russian mafia helping them, it’s a guy called Sewer Man. I will give the film props for that change since Sewer Man doesn’t add much.
Lastly, the ending again needs a bit of work. Too much gunfire back and forth between Rebels inside the camp and soldiers, Fishes versus the soldiers, and Theo running in amongst all the firefight.
It’s a bit over the top him always ducking bullets and just making it to cover.
8 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Movie made just under $70 million worldwide, but unfortunately cost $76 million to make. Not a huge loss, but a loss nonetheless.
Other than the birth scene (even with Miriam’s help) the one other problem was at the farm.
Tom’s supposed to be watching Theo like a hawk, yet he doesn’t even check if he’s sleeping when Patric rides in on the bike.
He comes into the room, grabs a random Fish, and just assumes Theo’s sleeping.
That part felt a bit convenient, even when accepting the part where Fishes turn their backs right as Theo’s playing cat and mouse around the rest of the farm house.
7 out of 10 points.
This script does very well on its own.
As I mentioned above, it could be a self contained lesson on creating a vast and three dimensional setting.
It’s not enough to show a world without children’s laughter, we get to see how all of that plays into the main characters and the society they live in on a daily basis and in various respects.
Did the directing help the emotional impact of this movie? Sure. But it didn’t have to do much.
It’s my thought that the script brought the story to such a high initial level that the director was free to make it all the better, since there was no need to create a miracle with the plot.
Total 84 out of 100 points.