Once he was able to leave Toronto he headed to ground zero New York and then to Milan for anti-globalization demonstrations by Italian progressives, doing his best to become a barometer of the human mood wherever they visited. “We said: let’s approach this story in the future, but as if we’re talking about the present,” Cuarón told Time Out, describing his goal to create a “heightened perception” of reality at the time. Some of those collisions with reality include Baby Diego’s death being mourned by London citizens in a manner similar to Princess Diana’s death and the recreation of the infamous hooded man photo from Abu Ghraib during a scene at Bexhill.
Cuarón gathered images and symbols of contemporary global strife to flesh out the world of his “Children of Men.” But to do so he had to break from the novel quite drastically. He even refused to read it out of fear it would taint the vision he had for its adaptation, relying instead on Sexton’s summaries. “From the novel, we took the premise, which I’m so thankful for: it triggered so many things in me about the fading hope of humanity,” Cuarón told Time Out. “We’re talking about environment, immigration, security versus freedom.”
It’s the reason for the biggest difference and improvement between novel and film. Instead of making the upper-class, white Julian (Julianne Moore) the unexpected pregnant mother, Cuarón chooses instead to make her an asylum seeker from Africa, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey). A creative decision that underscores the inhumane ways people treat those they perceive as other than themselves, as well as enmeshes the film in the very real and constant humanitarian crises that refugees face worldwide.