“Children of Men” has an unconventional hero. The film’s central figure, the ultra-cynical ex-activist Theo Faron (Clive Owen) is not the kind of person one would expect to root for when society is on the brink of collapse. Leaving his past as a fiery activist behind, Theo shambles through 2027 with livid resignation while humanity is plunged into global depression to the point of extinction. The film’s most marketable star, Julianne Moore, who plays Theo’s estranged wife Julian, is (spoilers ahead!) killed off 30 minutes into the drama, and it is Owen who carries the weight of anchoring the stakes that unfold. And he does, imbuing the dense socio-political premise with raw gusto and heartbreaking pathos.

Universal’s failure in highlighting the multipronged strengths of “Children of Men” during its marketing phase limited the film’s ability to impress audiences upon its release. Per Cinephilia & Beyond, the gravity of this misstep was heightened by the fact that Cuarón’s penchant for perfectionism resulted in a long and arduous production process for everyone involved. Things were further complicated by the numerous single-shot sequences that depicted the intense action in the film, which, apart from being time-consuming, were challenging to set up and execute. One such standout one-shot sequence is the one in which Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) gives birth — apart from the clearly uncomfortable context of painful childbirth, the scene solidifies the miraculous nature of the birth in a world plagued with total human infertility. The one-shot nature of the scene only serves to underline the realistic throughline of the dystopian drama, offering a real sliver of hope amid the darkness.

Given the amount of wearisome complications during the production process, it is only fair that Cuarón’ expected “Children of Men” to garner more recognition than it did back then.