Read It / Watch It: Children of Men

Readers and Cineastes assemble! The Kansas City Public Library brings together a great read and its equally great film adaptation for one sprawling conversation when the Read It / Watch It Discussion Group tackles P.D. JamesThe Children of Men on Sunday, March 13, at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Branch.

The Children of Men is arguably the best book featured in the Suggested Reading list for our 2011 Adult Winter Reading Program – at least it’s my current favorite (which is saying something, because I also love The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell).

But the one thing that The Children of Men has that no other Altered States Suggest Reading can claim is a stunning film adaptation! (Though both Yiddish Policemen and Jonathan Strange are in the works…)

Now here is the really important part: the book and the film are completely different. Aside from the main character being named Theo Faron, the book and the film have little else in common – aside from the hopelessness of a world where humanity has become sterile.

But here is the kicker: despite their separate paths, the book and the film are equally good – and each has a unique and poignant ending. Actually, this may be another instance a la Fight Club where the film closes the action better than the book – but that is an argument for March 13…

Here is the best explanation that I have to explain why the film version does not raise the hackles of the book-is-always-better-than-the-movie crowd (to which I belong): Alfonso Cuaron. This genius Mexican director is the same guy who made Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) and then turned around and gave us the first good Harry Potter film (…and the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004).

Cuaron helped write the screenplay for this adaptation of The Children of Men – which indicates a personal investment and ownership that most directors avoid. He also selected Emmanuel Lubezki as his director of cinematography, an important choice: not only do Cuaron and Lubezki have a solid history -- working together on Y Tu Mama Tambien and Great Expectations (1998) – but Lubezki (nominated four times for an Oscar) has a history of creating incredibly striking films, such as Sleepy Hollow (1999) and The New World (2005).

Despite what its box office gross might suggest, Children of Men is a must-see film – if only for a four-minute single-shot scene that is hands-down the best four minutes in any film from 2006. And we’ll prove it on March 13!

A screening of Children of Men (which is 109 minutes) at 2 p.m. will precede the promised sprawling conversation. Though the audience is encouraged to read the book before attending the screening, it is by no means mandatory. The conversation will be led by Kaite Stover, head of Readers’ Services, with occasional geek commentary provided by Paul Smith.

Click the image below to watch a trailer.

-- Paul Smith