Children of Men

Inciting Event: Theo is kidnapped by the Fishes, an anti-government “terrorist” group. He discovers that his ex-wife Julian is their leader, and she wants him to obtain transit papers for a female illegal alien. This is Theo’s first brush with the conflict, and it’s worth noting how he turns it down. In the Hero’s Journey, this is the Call to Adventure, which the hero starts out rejecting the call. His rejection is important because it allows for the believable development of his motivations. Because the Normal World in most stories starts out being, if not comfy, then at least complacent, most characters will need a little time to adjust to the idea of leaving it.

First Plot Point: Theo and Julian start out escorting the girl Kee to the coast, only to be attacked on the road. Julian is shot and killed, and her second-in-command Luke shoots two policemen and takes them all on the run to a Fish safe house. After this, there’s no turning back. Even though Theo already agreed to escort Kee, there was nothing yet that made it so he couldn’t conceivably turn back from the conflict if he so decided. But Julian’s death makes the conflict personal, and his incidental involvement in the cops’ deaths makes him a fugitive.

First Pinch Point: Theo learns the Fishes murdered Julian to get Kee’s baby (she is miraculously pregnant in a world cursed by infertility). This is a significant new clue about the true nature of the antagonistic forces he is facing. Suddenly, the world is no longer black and white, and the supposed “good guys” are no longer on Theo’s side, even nominally. This is also a very dangerous scene that emphasizes the stakes, since the Fishes try to stop Theo and Kee from escaping and even come close to killing Theo.

Midpoint: The Fishes track Theo and Kee to the house of Theo’s friend Jasper. Jasper has already put into play a plan that will get Kee to safety with the rumored “Human Project.” He stays behind so the others can escape—and the Fishes kill him. Usually, when the First Plot Point is dark, the Midpoint will be comparatively positive. But not so in this story.

Here, Theo doesn’t obtain any particularly revolutionary insights of the conflict, but he does face a Moment of Grace when he overhears Jasper telling Kee about Theo’s past activism with Julian and the son they lost. Although very understated, this is where Theo fully commits to saving Kee and her baby, thus marking his shift from reaction to action.

Second Pinch Point: Just as they arrive an illegal immigrant camp, Kee goes into labor. The midwife they’d been travelling with is separated from them (and possibly killed). With Kee in labor with her secret baby, this makes pretty much everyone an antagonist. The heart of this segment is something very positive: the baby’s birth. But the “pinch” is on throughout, since danger surrounds the characters at this critical moment.

Third Plot Point: Theo and Kee awake to learn the Fishes’ “Uprising” has swept the city and the prison. They escape, only to be caught by the Fishes. Kee is captured and Theo is set up for summary execution—only to have the general chaos of the battle distract his would-be killer. The Fishes want to prevent Kee from gaining sanctuary with the Human Project (so they can use her baby as a rallying point for their anti-government cause). Kidnapping is always an effective Third Plot Point.

Climax: Theo finds Kee and they flee the city and the battle. Most of the chaos dies down a bit at this point. The entire battle grinds to a temporary halt around Theo and Kee as people stare in shock at something they haven’t seen for decades: a baby. Then Theo and Kee move on to their personal climax, as Theo rows Kee out to the boat—only to reveal he’s been shot and is bleeding out.

Climactic Moment: After Theo dies, the boat arrives to take Kee and her baby to safety.

Resolution: The Climactic Moment is the final scene. There is no Resolution, which was an obvious stylistic choice on the director’s part.

Notes: For a great breakdown of Theo’s Positive Change character arc, see this excellent video by Lessons From the Screenplay:

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