Monday, January 30, 2023

Recasting 2006 (supporting): "Children of Men"

In keeping with my pattern in previous selections for this project, I'm interested in imagining Meryl in different parts not always just for the role themselves, but for with whom she'd get to work. I'm ashamed to admit that before I started writing this blog, I paid rather little attention to directors. It started to be something more on my radar when more closely analyzing Meryl's current and future projects. 2013 was a big year, as I had been looking VERY much forward to seeing how things would turn out with August: Osage County. That same year, I was introduced to Alfonso Cuarón's work, after being stunned in the theater by Gravity. As often happens, I realized this was more a reintroduction, having simply not realized I'd seen movies of his earlier. Of course I'd seen all the Harry Potter movies up to that point (Cuarón directed Prisoner of Azkaban), and I think I'd seen Y tu mamá también in college. I've since seen Roma, and while it's not a movie I'll watch over and over, I can absolutely appreciate its beauty and technical expertise. 

My dear husband was the first to introduce me to Cuarón's exquisite 2006 dystopian action film, Children of Men. I've watched it a handful of times in the past several years, and I identified it one I thought would work well in this recasting project. I love the movie, I love the themes and acting, and I love that it was critically acclaimed. Up until last week, when I watched it again to refresh my memory on it, I had imagined Meryl in the small role portrayed by Julianne Moore, the leader of a militant group in 2027 London. I expected to do some explaining on how I'd imagine Moore's character's former husband (portrayed by Clive Owen) to be played by someone closer to Meryl's age, and maybe pushing the year the movie takes place further out another five years. But as I was watching, a different, perhaps more interesting role that was perfectly age-suited and larger, was staring me right in the face. 

A bit of plot background. As mentioned, the film takes place in 2027 London, where the world is in chaos after humans have been unable to reproduce for nearly twenty years. War and famine are rampant, and immigrants are flooding into the U.K, one of the few remaining "stable" democracies. Owen's character, Theo, is tasked by his former wife, Julian (Moore) to usher the first pregnant woman in nearly two decades to a safe scientific base in the Azores. In an eerie and perhaps inevitable bit of foreshadowing, Theo and Julian's young son had died nineteen years prior during a flu pandemic. The pregnancy of course puts the young mother-to-be, Kee (Clare-Hope Ahitey), an asylum seeker from Africa, in danger. Individuals on both sides of the refugee debate have their views on what should be done to or with her, and Julian's militant group wants to ensure her safe escape. 

The character for which I'd like to insert Meryl is midwife, Miriam (originally portrayed by Pam Ferris). She's a member of Julian's immigrants-rights group who is chosen to accompany Kee on her journey. On the surface, she may seem to fade a bit in the background as not much more than a bit part. But as alluded to above, she's in a rather large portion of the film, and I'd argue has her own arc, as well as taking part in a lot of the intense "chase" that ensues when opposing forces seek to harm or save Kee. Although Miriam is terrified for her life, not necessarily expecting to be thrust into this dangerous position, she's no shrinking violet. She's an opinionated devotee of the militant group (the "Fishes"), and has no trouble speaking up about what she thinks is the best course of action in the aftermath of Julian's assassination. 

But perhaps the most poignant scene for this character is when she shares with Theo her experience as a midwife, when it was starting to become apparent that women were miscarrying and not future pregnancies were on their schedules. Starting at 1:03.

I've read that Julianne Moore was originally set to play the pregnant woman, but ended up taking the role of Julian instead. Being that her part isn't very big, it suggests to me that it was a project that she believed in, and wanted to be part of it however she could. I wonder if the role of Miriam would've or could've been enough of a way in for an actor of more prominent standing, like Meryl perhaps. Had she, too, been a big believer in the script (had it come across her table) and the director, maybe she would've been like, "sign me up!" There's also a brief scene (Miriam's last) where she has to fake a religious hallucination to try to distract guards from the fact that Kee's water has actually just broken on a bus. Coupling that with the scene above (and all the high-octane reactions during the escape/chase scenes), and I think we have a character, the quality of which surpasses plenty of those many other actors have earned nominations for. Pam Ferris didn't stand a chance, being much less well known than someone like Moore, for example. 

As mentioned, the film was extremely popular with critics, holding a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and score of 84 on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim." The film earned Oscar nominations for Screenplay, Editing and Cinematography. It's a shame the actors didn't get a bit more love. Clive Owen managed a Saturn nomination. Not even Michael Cane's John Lennon-esque performance as Theo's pot-growing, cartoonist friend/mentor could score any awards traction. Regardless, it's a special film, and it would've been exciting to see Meryl try her hand among the cast--with our without the Welsh accent! 


  1. I am going to post a comment giving my thoughts on all the great movies you've encouraged me to watch, rewatch and reimagine Jeff. Another great choice and one I can see Meryl working well in.

    I too have been more influenced by the role and overall reception of the movie but you also make a great point about it being important to consider the other factors involved and the creativity that goes into making a movie.

    To this end I've chosen "The Inside Man", directed by Spike Lee and coincidentally co-starring Clive Owen, as well as Denzel Washington, who got limited screen time with Meryl in The Manchurian Candidate, and Christopher Plummer. I chose this also because it would be fun to watch Meryl play such a tough character in a crime heist thriller that's actually quite well written with some clever twists. Jodie Foster played the role with quiet authority and spoke of enjoying the collaboration.

    I had originally wanted to somehow squeeze Meryl into "Notes On A Scandal" (a big favourite of mine) or a role in road movie dramedy "Little Miss Sunshine" but neither seemed to fit. 2006 was quite a good year for movies!

    1. I haven't seen Inside Man but I looked up the role and it sound like it could've been juicy. There will be a handful more selections in the coming weeks that are similar to my rationale for this week's choice...directors as the draw vs the role being super exciting.

    2. Looking forward to it, I think although Meryl wouldn't claim to be a Director I'd be interested in thinking about how her influence could have altered characterisation or overall end-product